Opposing evidence: Is Magic Leap actually boring?

If you are interested in Magic Leap (and if you are reading this site, you certainly are) then you really should be reading Karl Guttag's blog. He has done some excellent analysis of the video that Magic Leap has released and come to some conclusions of what technology is being used. Unlike many reports, Guttag far less optimistic about the company. He paints a picture that puts Magic Leap in the same sort of place as many competitors. The advantages such as fiber scanning displays and high resolution are all but a dream in his analysis.  Please do read the last few entries in his blog, they put forward some compelling evidence. 

This looks good. But it doesn't quite line up with the quality of reports from the demo.

This looks good. But it doesn't quite line up with the quality of reports from the demo.

On this blog, we have generally been optimistic about Magic Leap.  This is largely a result of all the reasons it makes sense to have some amount of faith in Magic leap but is further strengthened from the sort of philosophical idea that optimism is positive for the community (and the world at large). Unfortunately, reality has its own ideas and they often do not align with the optimist. Nor does it align with anyone else for that matter.  

How do we rectify analysis done here on GPU of the Brain and elsewhere with Guttag's in depth analysis? Well, the first thing to note is Guttag is taking first hand information.  He is looking directly at the videos that Magic Leap has released. So we cannot chalk his ideas up to cold pessimism. Likewise, we cannot discount the reactions to demos seen by a number of independent people. These people are generally respected tech journalists, some of whom have been in the industry for years. These reactions show that Magic Leap must have something up their sleeve that is beyond todays tech.

As with most things, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Backlash

Hololens doesn't have the field of view we were initially led to believe.

Hololens doesn't have the field of view we were initially led to believe.

Magic Leap should be terrified of backlash to their product. It happened to Google Glass. It happened to Hololens and it will likely happen to Magic Leap. With this in mind, I suspect the videos that are being shown by Magic Leap are a projection of what they imagine their product will do at a relative minimum.  They don't want to show a huge field of view or high resolution as hololens did only to later reveal that that isn't the reality of the product.  They want these videos to line up as closely as they can with whatever it is they eventually come to sell. 

I don't think Magic Leap have done a great job at managing the hype train but some of what Guttag has seen can likely be chalked up as an attempt to do this. 

"There are no pixels"

This has been said repeatedly by those who have tried the Magic Leap demo. As Guttag points out, in the videos released by Magic Leap, pixels are very clear. I don't believe these reporters are lying but I think they are being shown a prototype that goes beyond the capabilities of miniaturisation and manufacturing at this point in time.  As I said in my previous piece on these demos, the most important question that can be asked about Magic Leap right now is: "Can Magic Leap transition this impressive demo into a form factor and product suitable for the consumer market?".  The answer is unclear at this point.

Then what is the product?

Rony Abovitz has said in some recent talks that he imagines Magic Leap on a path that mirrors the iPhone.  He talks about the iPod being the first stop. If you go back and look at the original iPod you see a compelling product that is marginally better than competing devices of the time. That margin was enough for it to win the space. I don't think Apple had a grand plan at this stage of the company but you can see the steps and iterative improvements as technology caught up to allow for a device like the iPhone.   

Magic Leaps first product will likely start the company on a path that technology will eventually catch up with. There is a good chance we won't get a fiber scanning display in iteration one. We might not get a great FoV.  We might only get a glimpse of accommodation and vergence. But these ideas look like they hold water and five to ten years from now, we might get exactly what the larger demos are promising. They have the blueprints, they just need the time to build it. My biggest fear is that the inevitable backlash will kill them before they are able to truly make what they believe in. We should think about this when the device is launched. We should try to be optimistic. I know grave dancing is fun but it ultimately penalises companies for trying something new. We should be encouraging these companies not ridiculing them.