Sunday Musings: Karl Speaks and Rony Tweets

Karl Guttag has posted his analysis of the Magic Leap One based on the photos and information that has been released thus far. The effort and time he has put into this is impressive. He managed to deduce the likely dimensions of the device and 3D print a reference design. If you are interested in a deep dive on this then I recommend reading the article. 

That said, and as per usual with Karl, he peppers the piece with a lot of negativity. Karl made up his mind about Magic Leap some time ago and it is reflected in what he chooses to write about and spend his time on. He leans heavily on negative language and hyperbole in a piece where the results can be interpreted under many different lights. With that in mind, his analysis is impressive and worth your time.

Is the Real World view that bad?

Not even Bowie can make this look cool... Okay, maybe he still looks a little cool.

Not even Bowie can make this look cool... Okay, maybe he still looks a little cool.

I suspect Karl is fairly accurate in his analysis due to the time and effort he has put in. However, I don't agree with his conclusion. When Karl first proposed that the real world view is going to be limited I suggested a quick experiment that is easy to do for anyone. Simply make a pair of glasses with your hands. Karl tells me that "The hands doing an "OK" symbol sort of gives the idea". So it isn't nearly as robust an experiment as what Karl has done but certainly gives a good impression.

After trying this myself (and, yes I did look like a horses ass while doing it), I must say that while obviously more view of the world is better, the limitations that Magic Leap will have do not seem that bad. You do feel a bit hemmed in but if it provides a compelling experience then it is worth it. I might think twice crossing roads with this limited peripheral view but you really don't need much peripheral vision in your living room.  And that leads me to Rony. 

While some might think this tweet is dismissive, I think it is a good thing to remember. No matter how much you research, it is hard to say anything definitive about a product unless you try it. It is equivalent to the "spec" wars we see in other areas of consumer technology. In video games, companies will tell you all about 4k resolution and the sheer horsepower that their consoles have. While the Nintendo Switch is comparatively terrible in this respect. Prior to launch, it would have been easy to be dismissive of the Switch's 720p screen and mobile hardware. You could ask, why would the smart people at Nintendo make such a bad decision? But once you try it as a product you realize the tradeoffs are well balanced and made for good reason. You see that consumers don't care about specs. They care if it provides a compelling experience. You see that sum is greater than the parts. 

For Magic Leap, we don't know if these tradeoffs will be worth it. Perhaps the view will be too limiting, or there will be too many people that Magic Leap doesn't quite fit. On the other hand, a restricted real world view will make the smaller digital field of view feel larger and less irritating. In this sense, it could improve the experience. One could also question if these tradeoffs were made to fit in the myriad of other features Magic Leap is reported to have. Features that move this away from a lab experiment and in to a product. Perhaps Magic Leap One, as a dev kit, will be a bit wanting but the first consumer release will get the balance right. I don't know the answer to any of these questions. Importantly, neither does Karl.

So while Karl calls Magic Leap "terrible", "visual garbage", "poor", having a "major design flaw", "Obviously wrong", "Bad" and so on, remember, he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder as is clear from his choice of language. He doesn't know how good or bad Magic Leap will be as a product. I'd also caution Karl on calling out Rony as making a "logical fallacy". Rony is making a good point about judging something before you have actually tried it. That kind of judgement means you are making a hasty generalization, a logical fallacy that should be avoided. 

In any case, Karl's analysis is interesting. It does speak to the experience we will have with the Magic Leap One and worth your time. My thoughts here aren't to say Karl is wrong. When we all get to try the device later this year we might find he was dead on. We just don't know yet. So try to filter out the negativity, there is enough of that in the world already.