Analysis

Magic Leap reveals its first augmented-reality headset


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Well, we say ‘headset’. The Magic Leap One Creator Edition might be more accurately termed a pair of steampunk goggles.

Very cool (specifically: very cool when Johnny Depp wore something very similar as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) but not necessarily something that most of us would want to walk down the street wearing.

But we’ll do our best to hold back the snark: this headset has been six years and $1.89bn of funding in the making.

To quickly recap: Magic Leap is focusing on augmented reality (AR) technology: both the hardware and the software experiences that run on it. The last two years have seen ambitious claims about its capabilities by the company’s CEO, but also frequent speculation about technical challenges hindering it from living up to those promises.

The music industry’s interest lies partly in the fact that former UMG exec and Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff is its chief content officer, and more recently, in Magic Leap’s partnership with Sigur Rós to make a musical experience for its device.

Anyway, Magic Leap One Creator Edition includes the headset; a hip-worn battery and computing pack; and a wireless handheld controller. The device will ship in 2018, seemingly aimed mostly at developers – an SDK will come out early in the year – and super-early-adopters, but no price has been published yet.

Among the experiences trailed on its website are browsing the web and watching video hovering around you in the real world; playing games; and chatting to friends in avatar form.

In another music nod, Rolling Stone got an in-depth demonstration of the hardware and software – its full piece is linked to below, and follows Pitchfork’s exclusive on the Sigur Rós app earlier this month.

Magic Leap isn’t the only device of its kind – Microsoft’s HoloLens is the closest rival and there are others – but the company’s desire to show off big, bold AR experiences may provide opportunities for other artists and labels to experiment.

The hyperbole – and some of the still-unanswered questions – around Magic Leap will undoubtedly put a lot of people off, but anyone thinking about the music landscape in, say, ten years’ time will be following this company (and AR / VR more generally) with keen interest in 2018.

Stuart Dredge

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