What is Magic Leap, and why does everyone want to give the company money? That question will be answered soon thanks to an impressive round of funding the Florida-based start-up received from investors including Google and Qualcomm.
Magic Leap Inc., a company focused on augmented reality technology, said it raised $542 million in a funding round led by Google. Other investors in the latest round included Andreessen Horowitz, KKR and Legendary Entertainment. Magic Leap said it would use the funds for product development, among other things.
Not much is yet known by the public about Magic Leap’s products. Founded in 2011, Magic Leap said it is a company whose technology is all about ideas. According to the company’s Web site (which is populated by images of submarines and whales superimposed on real-life images), “It’s an idea based in the belief that people should not have to choose between technology or safety, technology or privacy, the virtual world or the real world.”
The company’s goal is to create augmented reality in a way that blends real-world sights with 3D images rather than through a headset that submerses the viewer in an alternate reality. Magic Leap has developed digital lightfield technology, which it said mimics biological processes to help the brain make sense of the images in front of it. Magic Leap’s technology projects 3-D images, or “light sculptures,” onto a viewer’s retina, according to an article in The New York Times.
Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap’s founder and CEO, has a background in biomedical engineering. Before starting Magic Leap he founded a company called Mako, which built robots for orthopedic surgery. That company was bought late last year by Stryker Corp. for $1.65 billion.
We reached out to Anjali Lai, a data insights analyst with Forrester Research Inc., who said that the ideas that Magic Leap has revealed so far are intriguing.
“On the one hand, Magic Leap’s intention to create a wearable technology experience that is seamless [and] makes the consumer adoption curve and learning curve relatively friction-less,” she told us. “On the other hand, for consumers to embrace the technology, they need to perceive some real value, or interpret the device as a solution to a currently unmet need.”
Combined With Google Glass?
Part of Magic Leap’s plans involves a wearable device that will track users’ eyeballs and project images onto them, according to technology blog Re/code. Some are insisting that Magic Leap’s immersive cinematic technology will come to market as a wearable device. With Google as an investor, the technology could be integrated with Google Glass.
Forrester’s Lai said her company’s research has shown that consumer interest in wearables is driven primarily by the potential for convenience and for rich information feedback.
“If Magic Leap, with the help of its investors, is able to leverage the incredibly smooth, user-friendly experience it purports to provide, and plays to consumer need[s] . . . rather than position itself exclusively as a channel for entertainment, it can be quite powerful,” she said.