Magic Leap Raises $794 Million And Announces “Mixed Reality Lightfield”

by Ian Hamilton • February 2nd, 2016
Secretive Florida startup valued at $4.5 billion and Alibaba is getting a seat on the board.

Magic Leap raised $794 million in new funding and CEO Rony Abovitz posted a blog suggesting the secretive company is moving closer toward a product, writing “we are setting up supply chain operations, manufacturing.” Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba led the round and Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman, is getting a seat on the board. The announcement roughly confirms a December report suggesting the company was raising money in this ballpark. The Series C round puts the Florida startup’s funding to date close to $1.4 billion.

Magic Leap also seems to have named its technology “Mixed Reality Lightfield” with subtle language in the blog post linked above that might be commentary about current VR technology, which isn’t able to perfectly reproduce what your eyes see in the real world.

“It comes to life by following the rules of the eye and the brain, by being gentle, and by working with us, not against us,” Abovitz wrote about the company’s technology. “By following as closely as possible the rules of nature and biology.”

Abovitz previously suggested Rift-like VR headsets have a history of “issues that near-eye stereoscopic 3d may cause” and that “we have done an internal hazard and risk analysis….on the spectrum of hazards that may occur to a wide array of users.”

The below video posted by the startup late last year was the public’s first glimpse of the technology, which is said to insert virtual/digital objects into a view of the real world while reproducing all of the visual cues your eyes are able to discern. That’s what the “Lightfield” part of “Mixed Reality Lightfield” is all about.


Here’s the text of the blog post from Abovitz:

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a product and a piece of art? Why in some films, food, cars, cameras, books, music, and in almost anything (even a kiss) you can detect that extra feeling, that bit of care, respect and artisanship that tells you that someone, somewhere, put their heart and soul into what you are experiencing?

If you can, find someone who has an old Leica camera, a 1950’s Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul, or a Ramirez classical guitar. Someone thought deeply about every detail – every curve, every bit of glue, every ounce of the material.

Hopefully you have had at least one parent or friend or spouse or significant other make something special for you – warm chocolate chip cookies; dinner after a long day; or eggs and pancakes (with real maple syrup and fresh-squeezed orange juice) in the morning – at least once. And maybe you’ve done the same for someone else.

Art is everywhere, and can be in everything. It is where the feeling of the person (or people) creating the thing for you, is infused into their creation with their spirit, their warmth, and with a depth of feeling and intensity that somehow translates back to you. Great actors and musicians communicate this feeling – it is why we love them. Painters and sculptors can imbibe their works with this spirit and emotion. You can feel this essence in the best novels and film, and you can enjoy it in the best foods, made thoughtfully and with great care.

Here at Magic Leap we are gearing up for our First. Let’s not call it a product, although it is a product on many levels; but on some levels it needs to be more. We are setting up supply chain operations, manufacturing – many whirligigs and test machines and gizmos abound these days. Engineers move about our spaces with a sense of urgency. Intense debates about every form of science and art you can imagine float about. Plans have been made. Program and production managers track progress. Coders are coding. Operational and financial systems are being upgraded so that we can scale and deliver at the required volumes. Our First thing will not be everything. But it will be a big step in a whole new direction.

In my mind what we are really doing will transcend what can be contained in a physical product, the thing with atoms and such. What we will bring to you, the part you will really love and find special, is the part without atoms.

We are building a wonderful, special thing – whose purpose is to gently, and in harmony with you (your physiology, your being), produce a Digital Lightfield™ – a living river of light sculpture, which can transmit to you the feelings of magic and experience and presence. We call this our Mixed Reality Lightfield™. It comes to life by following the rules of the eye and the brain, by being gentle, and by working with us, not against us. By following as closely as possible the rules of nature and biology, we can deliver what is truly next.

We are creating the future computing platform for everyone, one of context, presence, intelligence, and experience. The technical bits are very cool and interesting and amazing – to those of you who will want to geek out. To paraphrase The Martian, “we are science-ing the heck out of it”.

But we are also creating something more. Our Mixed Reality Lightfield™ is the result of really cool engineering and design – but the emotion and feeling and joy comes from all over: from a community of creative and curious people, from the biggest studios in the world, from ingenious application developers, and from everyone who has an idea, including you. Ideas, love, feeling, artisanship, care, and joy – these will come from everywhere and everyone.

We want to make you smarter – not machines. We want you to feel empowered and connected to your friends and family and the world, in a way that feels much more natural than computing today. Today’s internet is one of data and information. Our vision at Magic Leap contemplates a connected, creative, and collective world of human experience.

We are dreaming the same dreams that captivate you, ones that go beyond what we see, and have seen. These are ancient dreams, but also extremely modern. We see these ideas in every culture, in books, in films, in paintings, and in our imaginations. Magic Leap will contribute to a part of this collective imagination – a new medium and way to unlock our collective thoughts and passions and creative will.

The parts that transcend atoms, the parts that make us thinking and feeling people; this is the most important part of our collective, creative future. Computing that bends to people’s needs, computing that makes us smarter, that allows us in all ways to have a better and more complete human experience, one of communication and sharing and enjoying. This is what we are working hard to achieve, an ideal which becomes a life’s work – what we all at Magic Leap hope can be understood in each step we take on this journey.

We are working hard to deliver the very best parts to you, atoms not included.

These are Magic Leap’s investors:

Alibaba, Warner Bros., Fidelity Management and Research Company, J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Wellington Management Company, and others join Magic Leap’s existing investors: Google Inc., Qualcomm Ventures, Legendary Entertainment, KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and others.

WSJ reports the startup was valued at $4.5 billion by Alibaba.

This post was updated from its original version with additional information.