(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.”

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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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