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This is how Magic Leap actually works

And it's a very different prospect to existing AR and VR technologies

The first details of the augmented reality technology being developed by Magic Leap have emerged, finally giving some perspective on why Google was so keen to help it raise funding.

Indeed, that amazing $542 million round was probably the first time you'd even heard about Magic Leap, but the scale of that investment was impossible to ignore.

The feeling that something big was being cooked up in the secretive startup's Florida office was reinforced by several major hires, including the revered science fiction author Neal Stephenson and, more recently, the veteran game designer Graeme Devine. Indeed, when Stephenson explained his decision to sign up, he said that Magic Leap had his attention when representatives from the company turned up on his doorstep with "Orcrist," a sword from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels.

Now, in an article published in the MIT Technology Review, the fundamental technology that can bring mythical edged-weapons into the real world has at last been explained, and it is very different from the stereoscopic 3D commonly used in augmented reality and virtual reality devices.

"On the record [the Magic Leap team] avoid discussing how the technology works except in vague terms, citing concerns about competition," the article said. "But it's safe to say Magic Leap has a tiny projector that shines light onto a transparent lens, which deflects the light onto the retina. That pattern of light blends in so well with the light you're receiving from the real world that to your visual cortex, artificial objects are nearly indistinguishable from actual objects."

According to the article, Magic Leap seems to be aiming for a form factor that will resemble a, "chunky pair of sports sunglasses wired to a square pack that fits into your pocket." And hitting that form factor may be the single biggest challenge the company faces, with the difference in quality between the smallest and largest demo hardware apparently vast.

The article also draws a direct comparison between Magic Leap and Microsoft's recently announced HoloLens technology.

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Latest comments (3)

Jordi Rovira i Bonet Lead Engineer, Anticto6 years ago
Bluff. Do they solve the problem of the single-eye focus information? Stereoscopic displays solve the focus mechanics due to having 2 eyes, but a single eye also focuses near and far and that information is fed into our brain. While we don't have that information, because we look at something projected in front of us, it will always look ackward.
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Kostas Zarifis Managing Director, Kinesthetic Games6 years ago
I think it has been mentioned elsewhere that it will do some sort of "surroundings analysis" using some kind of Kinect/HoloLens technology so that it can feed 3d depth information of your environment into the image projected on your retina.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios6 years ago
I wonder if the retinal projection is fixed (resulting in floaty virtual images if you waggle your nose/eyebrows/ears) or if the glasses incorporate tracking cameras to compensate for such wobble. If so, the tracking cameras MIGHT be able to read your eye's focal length and account for it.
It sounds fascinating, I look forward to seeing a prototype in the wild...
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