Magic Leap 2 is the best AR headset yet, but will an enterprise focus save the company?

Magic Leap’s glasses had been supposed to steer us into the augmented actuality period, a world past screens the place we might work together with digital objects as in the event that they had been standing proper subsequent to us. Too dangerous they failed spectacularly. By early 2020, the corporate had raised almost $2 billion. However apart from a couple of flashy demos and wild artwork tasks, there wasn’t a lot of a cause for its target market of builders and creators to purchase a $2,295 headset. Like Google Glass earlier than it, Magic Leap felt like a false begin for AR, an answer to an issue that did not exist.

However the firm is not lifeless but. With a brand new CEO onboard — former Microsoft govt Peggy Johnson — it is aiming for one thing much more sensible: AR for the enterprise. That will appear to be a retread of the HoloLens playbook, which has centered on enterprise prospects for years, however Magic Leap has a shot at giving Microsoft some severe competitors with its second-generation AR glasses. 

Wearing the Magic Leap 2 goggles

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The $3,299 Magic Leap 2 (ML2), which launched in September, is simpler to put on, much more highly effective and it presents a dramatically bigger (and taller) AR subject of view than any headset we have seen earlier than. It has the distinctive capacity to dim its show, permitting you to dam out gentle and focus extra on digital objects. And it must be simpler for builders to work with, because of a brand new Android-based OS. Whereas it is nonetheless unclear if the corporate’s new marketing strategy will repay, ML2 continues to be a major achievement, particularly now that Meta can be pushing into related AR-like territory with the $1,500 Quest Professional.

In a Twitter chat with Engadget, Magic Leap’s founder and former CEO, Rony Abovitz, mentioned the corporate was all the time taking a dual-pronged method to customers and enterprise prospects. He additionally famous that the brand new headset was being developed with an enterprise focus earlier than the launch of the Magic Leap 1 Creator Version in 2018. Whereas Abovitz would not disclose particular gross sales numbers, he claims that the damning gross sales report in regards to the firm promoting solely 6,000 headsets was additionally utterly “made-up.”

“It has been an extended wrestle,” Magic Leap SVP and head of {hardware} Kevin Curtis mentioned in an interview with Engadget. “Once we got here out of ML1, we discovered an amazing quantity… Not simply technically, but additionally from a market perspective. So that basically was used to set the objectives for ML2.”

A few of these objectives appeared not possible on the time. The corporate needed to double the sphere of view (FOV) — the quantity of display space the place you may truly see AR objects — as properly minimize the system’s quantity in half. These strikes would make its sequel headset much more immersive, whereas additionally being extra comfy for prolonged put on. Based on Curtis, bumping up the sphere of view from 50 levels to 70 levels with ML1’s projector and eyepiece know-how would have required sporting one thing as massive as an open hand. That is not precisely doable all day.

Magic Leap 2

Magic Leap

Magic Leap spent years exploring present types of projection, together with laser-scan based mostly methods, uLED arrays and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), however discovered all of them missing. As an alternative, it developed its personal customized structure, which makes use of LCoS along with LED RGB gentle modules and a fancy system of concentrators and polarizers to carry photographs to your eyes. That works along with a brand new eyepiece design to attain its lofty 70 diploma subject of view.

However what does that really imply? The Magic Leap 1 headset featured a FOV of fifty levels, which made it appear as should you had been viewing AR by way of a automobile’s cramped rear window. (That was akin to HoloLens 2’s 52 levels of viewing.) With Magic Leap 2, the corporate hit a 70 diploma FOV by growing the vertical viewing space, permitting you to see taller objects with out transferring your head up and down. Throughout my transient demo, it felt extra like standing in entrance of an open doorway.

Magic Leap 2

Magic Leap

That is extra akin to the way you view issues in actual life, in line with Curtis, and it goes a good distance in the direction of convincing you the AR objects you are seeing are actual. I’ve tried all kinds of headsets over time (together with the defunct entry from the startup Meta, which existed lengthy earlier than Fb’s title change), and the Magic Leap 2 is the primary one which’s delivered a real sense of presence. Whether or not I used to be viewing a big piece of medical gear, or an expansive 3D mannequin of downtown San Diego, I needed to attempt exhausting to see the perimeters. It was nearly aggressively immersive.

The brand new projection know-how additionally helped Magic Leap obtain its aim of lowering ML2’s quantity by greater than half, resulting in a 20 % weight drop (it clocks in at simply 260 grams, barely greater than half a pound). The result’s a pair of AR glasses that really feel extra like, properly, glasses. Whereas the unique headset regarded like a pair of huge ski goggles, ML2 has flatter lenses and slimmer arms, making you appear much less like a bug-eyed dork and extra like an engineer or surgeon gearing up for an enormous venture. (It is no surprise Magic Leap gave well being startups a headstart with entry to its new {hardware} and software program.)

All of this practice growth will even assist Magic Leap ship higher headsets down the road. The corporate claims its eventual Magic Leap 3 glasses, which don’t have any launch date but, will lose one other 50 % in quantity and ship a bigger subject of view. The know-how can doubtlessly be scaled past 80 levels, permitting you to view a building-sized object unencumbered by any AR boundaries.

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