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Magic Leap One Revealed

After years of secrecy, AR megastartup Magic Leap revealed their first product. The Magic Leap One is a “Creator’s Edition”, something that sits in between a devkit and a consumer product.

In the Rolling Stone reveal story, founder Rony Abovitz claims that “…it’s definitely not just a development kit. If you’re a consumer-creator you are going to be happy.” The difference between “consumer-creator” and “developer” is perhaps a bit fuzzy, but clearly Magic Leap has invested a significant amount of time and money in creating launch content so the device will arrive with at least a few apps to play with.

Magic Leap One has three components: the bizarre, steampunkish yet relatively svelte HMD, called “Lightwear”, a single 6DoF controller, called “Control”, and an external computer called the “Lightpack”. The HMD contains a secondary computer that handles computer vision tasks with the help of six cameras. It also has eye tracking hardware. A great deal of the Magic Leap “secret sauce” seems to be related to foveated rendering, at least as far as we can tell from Abovitz’ far-out description of it. Behold:

“You’re really co-creating it with this massive visual signal which we call the dynamic analog light field signal. That is sort of our term for the totality of the photon wavefront and particle light field everywhere in the universe. It’s like this gigantic ocean; it’s everywhere. It’s an infinite signal and it contains a massive amount of information…There were two core zen ideas: The no-display-is-the-best-display and what’s-outside-is-actually-inside. And they turned out to be, at least from what we’ve seen so far, completely true. Everything you think is outside of you is completely rendered internally by you, co-created by you plus the analog light field signal…Everyone is inherently creative because everyone is constantly making their own Avatar world. The world you are living in, you are creating constantly; co-creating constantly, which is super exciting.”

According to Rolling Stone’s Brian Crecente, the display, however it works, is a genuine breakthrough. Virtual objects appear as a convincing, solid part of the real world: “[Sam Miller, senior director, systems engineering] wanted to show me one other neat trick. He walked to the far end of the large room and asked me to launch Gimble. The robot obediently appeared in the distance, floating next to Miller. Miller then walked into the same space as the robot and promptly disappeared. Well, mostly disappeared, I could still see his legs jutting out from the bottom of the robot.

“My first reaction was, “Of course that’s what happens.” But then I realized I was seeing a fictional thing created by Magic Leap technology completely obscure a real-world human being. My eyes were seeing two things existing in the same place and had decided that the creation, not the engineer, was the real thing and simply ignored Miller, at least that’s how Abovitz later explained it to me.” (Through-the-lens videos previously released by Magic Leap have shown the rendered objects are partially translucent, so it may be an illusion as Abovitz implies here).

Crecente did say he had some concerns about the Field of View, likening it to a VHS tape held at half an arms length. Oliver Kreylos did the fuzzy math based on that and came up with a FoV of approximately 40 degrees, far less than the Meta 2’s 90 degrees, although it is slightly better than Hololens’s 35 degrees. Abovitz says that the company has higher FoV displays in the lab, but this is good enough for the first generation. Waveguide displays like the Hololens uses (and which are at least distantly related to Magic Leap’s tech) are limited to around 35 degrees, but Microsoft has patented a method of expanding it to 70 degrees and beyond.

Other than that, Crescente loved the hardware: “The goggles were so comfortable you almost forget you’re wearing them. The computer attachment fits neatly into my pocket, and its tether to the headset never got in my way. The controller felt intuitive almost immediately. The sound was both accurate and powerful.”

No specifications or price tag were revealed except: it’s as fast as a high end laptop (so are iPhones these days) and it will be expensive. Abovitz expects the target market will be “The consumers who bought the first Mac, or the first PCs, everyone who would have bought the first iPod. It’s that kind of group…Pre-order and pricing will come together. I would say we are more of a premium computing system. We are more of a premium artisanal computer.” It sounds like it might cost thousands of dollars, like the Hololens. That will make it a difficult purchase for smaller developers who lack specific short term revenue generating plans for the hardware.

Facebook Spaces Adds Vive Support

There’s not much more to say beyond the headline, but the move is a big one: this is the first application from Facebook or Oculus that supports the rival platform. Strategically, the Facebook experience has always been intended to run on every possible device, so this move makes sense, and as it is a Facebook project—not an Oculus project—it doesn’t necessarily signal a shift in strategy from Oculus.

YouTube VR Comes to Steam VR

Google also extended platform support for their social media crown jewel. YouTube VRsupports Vive, Rift and Windows MR. (You may recall that YouTube VR first appeared on PSVR many moons ago).

Tango Is No More

Google announced it will shut down Project Tango on March 1st, 2018. This comes as no surprise after Tango devices languished in the market and the August introduction of ARCore, which can perform most of the same tricks without specialized hardware, made it a moot point.

iMac Pro Now Available; Final Cut Pro Gains 360 Video Features

Apple’s iMac Pro is now available, featuring Radeon Vega graphics that allow it to stand toe-to-toe with high end gaming rigs on the PC side. Starting at $5,000 the machine is fairly priced as well, if you spec out an equivalent PC. But a lot of the cost is driven by Apple’s choices: for example, its many-cored Xeon processor. It’s a general-purpose beast, built to render 8K video or run a ridiculously complex Logic Pro session. For VR development it’s way more computer than anyone needs. But VR is prominently featured on the product page, which is great news for our industry as the Apple diehards join the club, and Apple positions itself for a consumer XR play somewhere down the line.

Final Cut Pro X has been updated, and now allows users to edit 360 video at resolutions up to 8K while previewing in the HTC Vive. Even the motion graphics toolset is supported, properly warping its output to match the image.

The Roman Baths of Caracalla Use VR To Roll Back The Clock 2,000 Years

One of the most exciting use cases for XR in the travel industry is the possibility of visiting an ancient site and having the ability to see what it would have looked like in its heyday. Visitors to the Roman Baths of Caracalla now have the opportunity to do just that, and it may be the first example of many to come at tourist attractions around the world.

Firefighters Use VR To Train

This week’s Voice of VR podcast examines the role of VR training for new firefighters as well as preparation of seasoned staff for atypical situations such as an active shooter critical response scenario.