David Harrison got a chance to see Rony Abovitz speak "live" at harvard hubweek yesterday. By "live", it was really via a telepresence robot but that is close enough to the real deal. He wrote of his experience here as well as uploading a video of the talk. He has graciously allowed me to repost both his thoughts and his video which can be found below. Thanks David!
My first impression of the event was that it was empty, but just five minutes later the lobby was packed as everyone started to show up. I was just way too early, it seems. The atmosphere was even more lively and enthusiastic then. I met a few people who were 'looking into' AR and VR for the first time, many startups and students, too. The demo hall had many local Boston-area companies, and the Vive was on display everywhere. HTC were there with a few demos (theBlu, for one) and NVidia brought their Funhouse with them. One of the more impressive things on display was a bouncing 360-degree video camera sphere for use in tactical scenarios, and it was paired with a 360-degree VR viewer. It's easy to see, though, why Rony Abovitz had to start the chat off with a discussion of the definition of VR, AR and MR.
Rony Abovitz arrived by remote control telepresence bot to join Jon Hirschtick on stage. The 'uniqueness' of the appearance wasn't limited to just the use of telepresence, though. The event highlighted both a longstanding friendship and a nascent partnership between the two CEOs and their companies. OnShape is a leader in the Computer-Aided Design field with their Cloud platform for collaborative 3D design, and Jon Hirschtick himself was a founder and CEO of SolidWorks, one of the leading modeling and design tools in multiple industries. It was quite a special event to see two people with nearly a twenty year friendship, both pioneers and leaders in their fields, talk to each other about the future.
Jon Hirschtick opened with praise for Rony Abovitz's successes in his last company and with Magic Leap. He shared that he was overcome by a feeling that Rony would go on to do great things, even twenty years ago and especially now at Magic Leap. He says of Magic Leap:
"I truly believe that what Magic Leap is doing has the potential to improve the way every product on earth gets designed, manufactured and produced."
His full comments are in the video, and you should watch them. As he was asked about the current generation of devices, Rony Abovitz responds with a ten to fifteen year plan that works with the current generation of technology to enable even more growth later on. He shared a vision of a cross-platform, cross-technology world, where smartphone users in developing countries can still serve as contributors to projects made for Leap, and the proliferation of the last generation of devices in the rest of the world will let people's of poorly-developed countries reap investment and employment globally, despite not having access to Magic Leap. This vision and plan falls right in line with most industry analysis, where slowing or stagnant smartphone growth in the first-world is pushing the industry towards producing budget handsets for poorer countries where there are still many billions of people to connect to the internet and global economy. The challenge after that then is to connect them to Leap as those older devices become truly obviated.
It's one thing to read and analyze and over-analyze (and yes, write and post), but to really see the trust, faith and admiration that Rony Abovitz has inspired in someone else was something else entirely
OnShape, and other industries, are looking at new opportunities with Magic Leap (a smooth transition), not a disruptive revolution, despite the obvious superiority of Magic Leap. It's an impressive vision, and the confidence and trust in Rony Abovitz to execute it was on full display today and it was a little contagious. Throughout the talk, I couldn't help but be moved by the same feeling. It's one thing to read and analyze and over-analyze (and yes, write and post), but to really see the trust, faith and admiration that Rony Abovitz has inspired in someone else was something else entirely. The plan sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it's OnShape that grounds it, already producing collaborative CAD applications for devices operating in 2D and now partnering early with Magic Leap to make it happen in the natural, spatial way Magic Leap enables. It's a promising partnership and a direct execution of that plan, and it's easy to see where that trust comes from.
I had a chance after the presentation to talk to Shaun, an original employee from the time when Magic Leap had only 90 employees. He gave me as good an impression of someone who's seen the future as anyone could, and he showed that same trust in the Magic Leap vision as I asked him about things he couldn't talk to me about. Working in software and hardware at Magic Leap, he couldn't answer a lot of my questions with regards to Human Factors and interaction, either, but he confirmed to me that while the robot shooting game video wasn't shot through Leap at the time, it is real and he has played it (and it's really cool, and more than robots). He mentioned something about the ML audio system, but I don't want to get him in trouble if he wasn't meant to.
On a side note, Magic Leap reads the /r/magicleap subreddit. As I approached Shawn to introduce myself, he said, "I already know who you are." I can't imagine the shade of red I went! He had some great advice on where to start, and Unity and C, C# and Python are all great, but their job postings are the best source of information for figuring out what's going on inside. Bootcamps and demonstrations, while discussed in the presentation, aren't in place yet, but that will open the floodgates for development.
On a personal note, I was most impressed with the presentation. The content was visionary, but as I mentioned above, the real life demonstration of the trust and belief in Rony Abovitz and Magic Leap by Jon Hirschtick was most powerful. The quiet from Magic Leap has bred in me, at least, a wild speculative nature that ignored the people who believe in them, their vision and technology. There's a thousand of them who call Magic Leap their employer, and dozens more in partners and investors that are betting the future of their businesses (at least a portion of it) on Magic Leap and investing in Rony Abovitz. That kind of impression is not one left easily, and I have to say I came out with a small divot myself. Listening to Shawn talk about Magic Leap (what he could, at least), I got the impression, too, that there's a lot of brilliant people at Magic Leap working on everything I can imagine from sensors to chips to a platform. I've not been very fair on Magic Leap lately (partly because of the deafening silence!), but I think this event was made even more impactful by highlighting the people who share Magic Leap's vision and have trust and confidence in the execution of that vision. I suppose seeing is believing. Now that's a great motto...
For more from David, he can be found making insightful posts on reddit under the user David_Harrison.