(Update) Photo Shows Magic Leap ‘Test Rig’ NOT Prototype AR Headset

by Joe Durbin • February 11th, 2017

Update: Magic Leap’s CEO took to Twitter today to explain this photo more clearly.


Upload’s own Robert Scoble shined even more light on this situation by posting a direct message conversation with Abovitz on his Facebook page.

As we stated in the article below, the nature of the device in the photo below was unverified up until this point.

(Original Story): An unnamed source reportedly sent a photo of the secretive augmented reality startup Magic Leap’s hardware to Business Insider. In a story posted Friday evening, BI showed the photo off to the world in what could be our first look at one of Magic Leap’s AR prototypes.

It is important to note, however, that at the time of this writing no one from Magic Leap has confirmed the legitimacy of this image and the BI story itself states that, “We attempted to authenticate this information with Magic Leap but the company declined to comment by time of publication.”


The photo in question shows someone wearing a headset wired into a bulky pack full of wires, circuit boards and other hardware. This certainly doesn’t look like a product that is anywhere near ready to ship or even demo publicly. This would be a small concern if the photo depicts a Magic Leap prototype from several years ago, however, the BI source suggests this is a recent prototype.

While it is exciting to see something out of Magic Leap, this is certainly not the photo CEO Rony Abovitz needs right now.

Magic Leap managed to raise nearly $1.4 billion in investment from contributors such as Google, JP Morgan and China’s Alibaba. That gargantuan amount, combined with a slew of “concept videos”, captured the imagination of tech enthusiasts around the world. As time has ticked by, though, questions have been raised concerning Magic Leap’s ability to deliver on its promise.

In December last year, the company’s head of PR left to work on a stealth startup. This followed a report from The Information indicating that the company was having difficulty miniaturizing key technology in their quest to create true, consumer-level AR. Just a few days ago Beyonce, one of the few non-company folks to have tried Magic Leap’s tech, was quoted as saying she found it “boring.”

The culture of mystique and intrigue that Abovitz has fostered may have made his company one of the hottest startups of the last five years, but that strategy only works if the final product can live up to the hype. Magic Leap’s final, and most powerful, silver bullet against disappointment would be an amazing product that looks and works as well as their ambitious promotional videos promised it would. What BI is reporting, however, looks less like a trump card and more like a smoking gun.

AR is a fantastically difficult problem to solve on a consumer level, mostly because the parts necessary to make it work are more theoretical than physical at this point. The backpack in the above picture presumably powers the headset, but the promise of Magic Leap remains a device that miniaturizes all of those components into something that could be worn comfortably, and stylishly by anyone.

Magic Leap last got an injection of nearly $800 million about a year ago. The company is undoubtedly burning through money fast, but unlikely to have completely spent everything in a year. That said, if there is too little left in the bank to continue engineering this hardware into a more manageable form factor, then Magic Leap’s shareholders are going to have some interesting conversations with Abovitz.

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What's your reaction?
  • I mean, it clearly looks like a dev kit. Dev kits are gigantic refrigerators compared to consumer products. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    • user

      word. and do people really assume that they show off their latest prototype to every employee at the entrance of the building?
      plus: the last report claimed that the current prototype is the size of 2 soda cans.

    • Jim Cherry

      the real problem isnt the prototype its the fact that its a company that has over a billion in investment and they still only have internal prototypes. When are they going to realize you cant have a revolution without partners. actual devkits should have been out like yesterday.

      • user

        they already shipped dev kits to partners like ILMxLAB. dont be mad that they focus on bigger dev teams first and ship to indie devs later. they already said that they have shown the tech to hundreds of people outside of magic leap.

        • Jim Cherry

          i hope for your sake that those bigger dev teams arent as secretive about their projects as magic leap has been. otherwise we could be waiting another two years before seeing any demos outside of magic leaps own promotions.

          • user

            half a year ago they implied that they will release the first product in 2018. i can wait.

  • ihate_liberals

    wow i can not wait see it in theater

  • Hogo

    someone is actively trying to sink magic leap.

  • Surykaty

    As much as I would love to have an insanely good AR device as Magic Leap’s own videos try to portray, I just hope that all of this retarded marketing consisting of pseudo-artistic lingo and a whole load of what is bascially mumbo jumbo, would totally blow up into Rony Abovitz’s face and keep others from following his PR foot steps.

    Magic Leap’s marketing is cancer.

    • user

      personally i think consumer’s expectations are cancer. some people just cant wait until a product is finally revealed. most people are adults though and dont get too emotional.

      • Surykaty

        but that’s given.. look at every magic leap commercial.. it promises things it can’t deliver.. it promises an AR device that can create “black” color or in other words opaque illuminated images which is bullc*ap

        • Jack H

          Black or shadows can be created on transparent displays. It is mentioned in patents by Microsoft, by patents acquired by Vuzix and in various research publications. The main issues for subtractive augmented reality are the extra displays (including diffraction if LCDs are used), focus adjustment and the computing power required.

          I also wrote in an application to the USPTO as “System and Method for Subtractive Augmented Reality and Display Contrast Enhancement”

          • Surykaty

            From all clues and patents Magic Leap does not contain some kind of an LCD display layer where you can just input a bit of voltage into one of the pixels and make that section of the display containing the pixel turn opaque or semi opaque depending on the voltage. The probability that the waveguide chip has also an outside on-off LCD layer or some exotic pixel controlable polarizer layers is improbable. Rony Abovitz stated in an interview said that actually an artist (not an engineer) from the company came up with a way how to make “black” – from what I understood he’s hinting that it’s just a contrast trick which won’t work in a well lit room or outside.

            Only now Sony (end of 2016) finally came up with a proper electronic ND filter that has been implemented into the FS7 Mark II camera. So overall I’m having a hard time believing since that Magic Leap has a pixel perfect masking tech for light from outside – it’s simply a very hard thing to do right and very hard to combine properly with the additive part of the Magic Leap technology so that’s why i’m saying bullcrap.

  • NooYawker

    Just another company with lots of promises and lots of investors. They’re making AR goggles. A lot of hype for nothing.

    • user

      ar goggles are nothing? when someone builds AR glasses with a big oled and a smart glass layer that functions as sunglasses and to dim the background for VR you probably change your mind.

      • NooYawker

        I’m looking forward to AR goggles. Just like I was looking forward to VR. But so much hype from this company. If they deliver a fraction of what you just listed I’d be amazed.

        • user

          from what ive read about it, oled is probably the tech thats used in their demo videos and could be the tech for the first consumer product instead of laser fiber scanning which could take some more years. transparent oled is tech others use as well. but i cant imagine that they dont use glass whose translucence cant be altered if they want people to wear it outside.

        • Get Schwifty!

          I know – people get onto Oculus for few things but they are nothing like this company…

  • Paulo

    Worth noting that its already much smaller than the device they brought around in a cart. Still lots of work to do though

  • Jim Cherry

    glad that magic leap came out with a statement but they could have made lemonade out of this by releasing something more than just a statement ;}

  • jimrp

    Some day we will get there.

  • LOL didn’t know about Beyonce

  • I really hope Magic Leap succeeds or another competitor blows them out of the water.

  • daveinpublic

    All he wanted was the money. He got that. It’s called theft. He could have done it without the hype, just rob a bank or something.