Magic Leap is the future of augmented reality. It is everything Minority Report style controllers envisaged and more. It is the death of the screen.
All those things are pretty big statements but they're all things Magic Leap could represent. With over $540 million in funding and with backers like Google and Qualcomm, even the big names in tech seem to think this is the future.
Magic Leap, essentially, uses a head-worn display to project virtual images on the real world. But unlike other examples, like Microsoft's HoloLens, this uses a proprietary technology to make the blend between real and virtual almost undetectable.
So how does Magic Leap work and what does it mean for the future?
Magic Leap projects into your eye
The technology that sets Magic Leap apart from other augmented reality competition is pretty secretive. All the company has revealed so far is that it invented the system and it works like nothing else.
The tech is called Dynamic Digitised Lightfield Signal, or Digital Lightfield for short. This, essentially, projects images directly into the eye so it hits the retina. Traditional projectors would fire the light at a surface which bounces it back into the eye. By going directly it is able to "trick" the brain into thinking it's real.
Describing how it's done the company say it uses "hardware, software, sensors, core processors, and a few things that just need to remain a mystery."
The software is so smart the demo videos show that light created in the virtual projects even bounce off real world items and create shadows. The final result is a seamless, real-looking projection.
So far Magic Leap has only shown off the lens part of it's system of hardware. This it called a Photonics Chip. It won't commit to what the headset, if that's what it ends up being, will look or work like. Though there has been a patent leak for a headset, shown off below.
Magic Leap could kill the screen
By creating a headset that projects directly onto the retina there is no need for screens anymore. Since the resolution and focus of the images are going to be near real, it's likely that no screen will compare. It also means everything can be adaptive so the display suits the information.
Video examples show menus being scrolled as if they were on a physical wheel. Items, like an email inbox, could be placed on a real-world desk as if it were a real mailbox.
How about checking out the score of a sports game when out and about? Imagine looking up and seeing the scoreboard floating right there as if you were at the game. Or watching a film on a flight, just let the screen take up your field of view and be immersed like being at the cinema.
There are even rumours that Steven Spielberg is working on the movie adaptation of the Ready Player One book with Magic Leap. Imagine a movie experience in total virtual reality? Very exciting potential indeed.
Lucasfilm's ILMxLabs has teamed up with Magic Leap to create a Star Wars clip where C3PO and R2-D2 have been placed into augmented reality. The companies are working together now meaning we could see a re-invention of how stories are told very soon - watch out cinemas.
Magic Leap could re-invent gaming
One of the huge applications for Magic Leap is gaming. Imagine being able to enjoy virtual reality immersion while still moving freely around a room and not banging into things. That's what augmented reality does as the wearer can still see the world about them.
Microsoft showed off a HoloLens doing exactly that, even using the real-world furniture as part of the gameplay environment.
The fact that the Magic Leap unit appears to recognise hands means holding virtual objects like guns appears to be easy. Although perhaps a real-world prop will help in these instances.
Magic Leap hardware is a mystery
While demo videos have been shown of what Magic Leap can, or could do, there's no hardware reveal, yet. That lens, it's calling a Photonics Chip, that was shown just looks like any other to the naked eye. It's described by the CEO Rony Abovitz as: "A three dimensional wafer like component that has very small structures in it. They manage the flow of photons that ultimately create a digital lightfield signal".
The headset will have to be mobile and comfortable on the face for it to work effectively while moving. That likely means it won't be cheap. But if it's replacing every screen and television in your life maybe that'll be worth it.
The above image shows off what that headset could look like. The drawings are from a patent filed by the company but it was not accompanied by any details. It looks more like a VR headset than AR, and certainly isn't made to be mobile, suggesting a more home cinema like experience could be one route the company takes.