It’s finally arrived. After 7 years of development, reality tech startup Magic Leap finally delivers the Creator’s Edition of its firstborn. Marketed as being an ‘unbelievably believable’ Mixed Reality headset, Magic Leap One hits the shelves for the not-so-modest $2,295. Deliberately building an air of mystic around it, it made everyone all the more anxious to grab it, sit, and do a thorough teardown.
Since the company was founded in 2011 not a single piece of hardware came out. Still, it was able to raise gigantic sums of money solely on the promise. This, a few rare interviews, and a handful of cryptic concept videos every now and then, left many wondering what Magic Leap was all about. The company still remains something of a mystery, but at least its product isn’t any longer. We can now open it and see exactly what’s packed inside.
Truth is, there is not a lot of mystery and a lot more compromise to the Magic Leap internals. Unlike Microsoft HoloLens which are better suited for training and corporate use, Magic Leap sets a more futuristic MR aim. It aims to mix everyday reality with real enough 3D holograms and eventually replace computers and smartphones. It features a six-layer wavelength assembly that allows for the distance-controlled Mixed Reality experience. The waveguides are laden with 6 color channels, each of the 3 primary stretched across two focal planes. The IR eye tracking technology is fairly advanced, though the single camera situated below eyes favors the downward-looking tracking direction. Speaking of preferences, magnetic sensor coil is placed in a slightly odd (some would say old) manner, making the left handed usage more problematic.
Apart from the Mixed Reality headset, Magic Leap One consists of a CD player-like computer dubbed Lighpack that features the NVidia Tegra X2 Chipset under the hood. The rest of it seems fairly common for an MR headset (yes, there is a cooler here), apart from the fact that the power pack looks very difficult to replace. Also, the computer is connected to the headset via single cable which, once again, smells of trouble if removed. Advanced technology aside, Magic One looks a bit shaky on the technical side, with repairs a potential headache.
The problems nothwithstanding, Magic Leap’s technology does cash its own check. In many ways it is delivering the future in a neat, familiar package. The product promises a sharp, clearly rendered Mixed Reality image, and that’s what we’re seeing from the inside. A meticulously engineered and precise projectors.
Taken as it is, Magic Leap One is a confounding piece of equipment. Unmistakably advanced technology sure, but for all the promise of the ‘death of reality’ as we know it, Magic Leap’s first consumer product cuts a few surprising corners. Like with Apple’s coming AR glasses, it is probably more suitable to think about it in terms of what’s coming, rather than what is. Magic Leap is a glimpse into the future and the role Mixed Reality headset tools play in reaching it. As such, it is a remarkable piece.