Magic Leap Raises Another $500+ Million In Series D Funding

by Jamie Feltham • October 18th, 2017

Magic Leap remains shrouded in mystery but continues to impress investors; the company’s just raised another $502 million in a Series D round of funding.

The round was led by Temasek with participation from EDBI, Grupo Globo, Janus Henderson, Alibaba Group, Fidelity Management and others. They join several other high-profile investors including Google, which helped put the company on the map in the first place. Magic Leap is thought to be working on an augmented reality headset similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens that projects virtual images into the real world, though it’s kept its work under wraps from public eyes since being revealed a few years ago.

This is the third biggest round of funding the company has seen, raising $827 million and $794 million in 2015 and 2016 respectively. This extra cash pushes the company’s total investment beyond $2 billion, then. Not bad for a company we still haven’t really seen anything from.

The news falls in line with a recent report that not only suggested the company was looking to raise another $500 million, but was also hoping to ship its first device to a “small group of users” within the next six months for a price between $1,500 to $2,000. While far from confirmation, this does add weight to the rumor that we’ll see the device — named Magic Leap One — by March 2018.

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  • Justos

    What the actual heck are people smoking to invest so much in this. Is it really that game changing? Even compared to hololens? With all the things ive heard about the CEO of magic leap it would not surprise me if this was a huge flop in the end.

    • Michael

      Yet investors even after so long, even with the progress made… still want to buy in. They see a future with this.

    • Downvote King

      Hololens is just stereoscopic 3D. Magic Leap supposedly creates lightfields the eye can focus on like 3D objects. It’s a major advancement over Hololens…

      Unless the 80% of people who comment on news stories like this are right and it’s actually an investment scam like Theranos that is. Seems incredibly unlikely to me though.

      It’s well known investors get a peek at it, and they’ve all said it’s mind blowing. Seems like an impossible situation for them to actually create a tech good enough to convince firms to separate with billions of dollars, and it not be an actual product they’re working on that’s at least relatively what it’s described to investors as.

  • impurekind

    This thing is either going to be frikin’ amazing or a total and utter disappointment as I see it. I think it’s likely to be the later to be honest. But, I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong and get blown away by the end result.

    • dk

      or a 3rd possibility ….it will be just a better hololens …..Good Enough Leap

      • Bundy

        If all they did was make a Hololens that has a wider FOV, I’d take it.

        • dk

          yep everybody thinks that it will be either alien mind blowing orgasm slightly bigger than contact lenses …….or a scam because they r not showing to the public

          ……and instead it will be just a pretty good hololens….that’s it

          probably anywhere from 60-90fov ….anything less than that would be just crappy …..pretty good angular resolution and refresh rate …..and variable focus which is the major part part and why people r giving them money…..and it will be small-ish wired to a box in your pocket probably 2 versions $1200 and $1500

          and to be really great they will need great eye tracking and great hand tracking or small 6dof controllers and great object scanning and recognition and battery life and it needs to run WIN MR or daydream

          • Downvote King

            How do you imagine their demos are convincing investors to commit billions if it’s not impressive tech?

          • dk

            what I described will be pretty cool …..a better hololens will be awesome …..because the hololens is already like magic —— youtu DOT be/OoSk3KYuCgY

          • Downvote King

            Cool video. That’s AR for you. I’m certainly not saying that Hololens with a 90 degree FOV wouldn’t be a great step forward, but there are many companies working towards that, including of course the Hololens team. None of them are receiving anything close to the investment visibility of Magic Leap, and they all use the same tech – essentially reflected LCDs creating a Stereoscopic 3D image. The image appears on the same focal plane to the eye, so there is no ability to focus on any one object or another in 3D space. Eye-tracking and rendering simulated focus will help a bit with this technology, but only to further the illusion while the eye’s focus still physically remains at the same focal plane. There’s very little to entice large new investment in any of these companies, evidenced by the fact that nobody is doing so.

            The technology Magic Leap is talking to their investors about, and then demoing apparently to the tune of billions in acclaim, even at an early stage years ago, is fundamentally different, and creates images that the eye can physically focus on at different planes, like real, physical 3D objects. This is a very real, next generation advancement in AR technology. What they’re talking about is building digital lightfields directly onto the retina. This is not the kind of thing you can speak to an investor about and then demo to them without them positively verifying whether your tech is real or not, even with an NDA, this is the kind of thing that would blow up quick if it didn’t deliver at the demo stage. By all accounts, everyone who’s received a demonstration has verified it as being mind-blowing; strangely, with the exception of Beyonce(true story) – although, I’m not sure I would go to her for tech investment advice.

          • dk

            “None of them are receiving anything close to the investment visibility of Magic Leap” lol……….Rony said it himself they r doing stuff that companies 100 times the size r doing…..they r the small player not the big one …..and no one has particular advantage……what they could possibly deliver is exactly what I described……and everyone is working light field displays……and that’s just one small part of the things they have to nail to have a great next gen hololens

          • dk is spot on and this exactly how it is playing out. Rony had (stole) the idea of using wave guides to create the different layers for depth distances, but did not have the inside/out tracking or miniaturization of the optics/CPU/GPU to drive it. I am firm believer that the image of the prototype a few months back is where they are right now. A standard headset design to house the lenses & tracking and backpack to handle the processing, while Microsoft has already come out with a product that is completely self contained, and no telling what they have been doing behind closed doors as well. The important point is even though they continue to get money, it seems the rounds of funding keeping coming from companies who aren’t as well known who want to jump onto the VAXR train.

            Personally I am concerned in all the secrecy, which says more about the personality of Rony than it does about the technology. I am also concerned about his juvenile usages of the tech, including its use as a novel comic book reader. Games and comics have their place, but I admire Microsoft’s goal in using the Hololens in education and professional markets, with an eye towards entertainment. I also like that I can buy one and develop for it now. With Magic Leap you have to apply and from what I have read, they are only looking for companies who have great track records of making money. Say what you will about Microsoft, Google, Apple, Valve and even Facebook (Oculus) but they know that its the developers that sell the hardware, not the other way around.

          • dk

            their patents have always been glasses wired to a box….and with current technology that is absolutely the only way to make the glasses part as small as people want it to be….but it’s still a bit tricky …..and the box in the pocket will be easy/cheap to produce and easy to deal with heat and battery life

            ……but can they get everything else needed just right ……possibly….but it’s really tricky and microsoft has been working on it for super long time to get to where they announced it like 2 years ago and released it for devs 1 year ago

            if they can’t quite crack something they will just sell the light field technology ……and in the mean time a lot of other companies r working on it too

          • As mentioned in a separate comment, even that will not be enough to make it belt device. This is why you are seeing talk about them working with NVIDIA in creating a multi-core SOC. My bet is on the TX2 or a variant to that. But that is very expensive chip, but maybe the only thing with the pipelines handle the data being generated on multiple planes.

            I personally have no problem wearing a belt based processing unit & battery and personally think this is the route Microsoft should have gone as well. This would have allowed them to increase battery time and use a more powerful processor, like a Intel 65xxU, instead of the CherryTrail based Atom chip considering earlier versions with a external PC had better FOV and resolution. My i5-7620U Intel NUC works really well with MSXR and I get 3 hours on a 80wH Anton Bauer Li-Ion battery pack system I created.

          • Downvote King

            So you don’t see lightfield displays as a big advancement over current tech?

            Which startup companies looking into lightfield tech have you heard with investment numbers like Magic Leap?

          • dk

            like I said if they get all the details right …..it will be quite great ……hololens + 60-90 fov + variable focus

            what I really like is the old nvidia light field display with the array of lenses because that way u can get pass through with a nontransparent virtual object and u can do vr roo and the display stack is sun glasses size not a box on your face even though it’s a vr display
            …..but for that we need 2 things… high res panels and eye tracking

          • Downvote King

            For some reason this got flagged as spam and never posted, hopefully it shows up this time:

            You keep saying it would just be Hololens with a wider FOV and variable focus though. This seems to miss the point. The lightfield tech they are using is not a trick using eye-tracking and simulated focal rendering; it creates what is for all intents and purposes a very real physical object to the human eye.
            Because it can be focused on like a real object, with the lenses of the eye actually moving closer together or further apart to focus the light into finer detail for the brain, it not only gives a much deeper sense of immersion, but seemingly prevents the eye-strain and fatigue your eyes get from using standard stereoscopic 3D(like Hololens), which forces your eyes to focus at the same plane even though objects seem to occupy 3D space, causing problems with cognition and comfort without the real bio-feedback of your eye actually focusing on a 3D object in 3D space.
            That seems even more important than form factor to me, and of course could be used for VR as well which would also be quite an advancement for that technology. If I had to guess, Magic Leap is most certainly aiming for a small, sunglasses-like form factor though, which would only increase its appeal, as well as adding much more resolution and layers to their photonic chip than have previously been possible – in addition to increasing the FOV, which I believe essentially just involves increasing the surface area.
            They also seem to be putting a lot of R & D into improving the rendering pipeline and reducing the component size for the CPU/GPU to fit in your pocket, if not actually inside the glasses for gen 1. All this and the work they’re doing with so many entertainment companies to provide content seems to be why people are so excited about investing in a way you don’t see in other AR startup companies. I still have yet to see a probable explanation for so much new investment besides it actually just being a vast improvement over current tech, which I believe the above discussion represents.

          • dk

            yes the hololens doesn’t have variable focus
            and I am just saying ML is glasses with somewhat bigger fov and variable focus……the display tech is different and the experience is different but the use case is absolutely the same as the hololens…….in that sense I am saying it’s a better hololens

          • Downvote King

            I guess it just seems like downplaying the significance of lightfield tech to just call it “variable focus”. There are tricks you can do to create the appearance of focus with software and eyetracking – I would call this variable focus. But, creating a real 3D light object seems like a seismic shift this description misses. The whole world is made of 3D object your eye can focus on at different focal lengths, but it would seem strange to call the world “variable focus”; it’s not a trick, it’s real.

            How do they create opaque images for AR if they can’t block light behind the image?

  • evo_9

    Goddamnit stop giving these clowns money! Or you know, maybe wait until they ship something (or hell even SHOW something). I don’t even read or watch anything by them anymore, it’s just kind of the new vaporware joke among my friends.

    • Bundy

      I’m hoping that these guys get a first hand demo of the product and tech before dumping hundreds of millions into it.

      • Downvote King

        They do.

    • Downvote King

      Investors get to look at it. They’re obviously impressed. Seems like good sign?

  • daveinpublic

    Wow, whatever world changing tech they had back when, everyone’s probably caught up or surpassed their vapor ware lead. They must be close to launching, because I don’t think anyone would invest at this point unless the money were going to actual production. I remember being so excited by their small announcements years and years ago. Nowadays, I’ve gone from caring what they say, to actively disliking what they say. I would imagine that an Oculus Go is a much more complete product compared to whatever they’ve got.

  • Magic Leap uses layered light wave guides sandwiched together to create the illusion of depth by sending information to each layer based on a point in space from x distance to infinity. Even though this is extremely novel and exciting, it is a brute-force method that requires a great deal of processing for each layer, not the counting electronics to drive the layers. Hence the reasons why the prototypes are still headsets and require a backpack PCs, and that is even when they reduced the number of wave guide layers.

    Working towards my own reduced package to support HTC/Vive like VR quality in belt worn package is daunting task with off-the-shelf hardware. When Microsoft created a custom package to house its visor, the final cost was $3500, and I don’t think it cost this much because Microsoft was looking to profit from it. Even if Magic Leap succeeds in bringing it to market, it will be disappointment because the tech won’t match Rony’s hype in either performance or price.

    Others have also commented about other light projection/guide methods with some I find could be a much better solution for cost/performance. One is a dynamic lens that changes focal length based upon voltage. This is cool because you are no longer requiring matrices of light points, but single light plane that is distorted by the dynamic lens. This much more like how our own eye work and and since you are using only one projected plane per eye, you are back to reasonable computational hardware that is much easier to obtain, with tables being used for lens distortion coefficients based upon focal length and eye tracking data.

  • MowTin

    It’s not reasonable to expect the PSVR to do what a $1500 PC plus Rift can do. If that’s what you want then buy a PC and Rift with Project Cars 2. I play PC2 and I really enjoy doing time trials against ghosts. Consoles have been struggling to get 1080p at 60 fps. Of course VR is going to be challenging requiring some cut corners.