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Magic Leap CEO: 5 years left for immersive Augmented Reality to reach consumers

Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, is convinced that there are still several years to go before there is a viable augmented reality market for consumers. That is, so that they can access devices with which to see simulated images superimposed on the real ones. Johnson, head of this pioneering company that manufactures augmented reality devices, believes that they will reach the general public in five years.

This was confirmed by Johnson a few days ago in a question and answer session held by the Artificial Intelligence platform Collective[i]according to Zdnet, as part of its Forecast event series via Zoom.

Magic Leap pioneered the development of glasses that let the wearer see rendered objects in their field of view in the real world. In 2018, she wowed the world with several presentation videos of what they were capable of achieving, which led her to get several billion in funding from Google. From then until the launch of its first product on the market, a lot of time still passed, and it was not until last year when the first version of it appeared, which did not meet all the expectations it had generated.

That first version cost a whopping $2,295, and was arguably the best AR device released to date, but its hardware still needed a few tweaks and tweaks to work optimally.

Johnson came to Magic Leap in August 2020, after the firing of Rony Abovitz and in the midst of numerous financial problems that led to hundreds of layoffs at the company. The directive came from Microsoft, where he had worked for several years after going through Qualcomm, changed the course of the company. Until his arrival, everything indicated that his glasses were going to cause a sensation in the consumer market. But they decided that it was better to focus on selling their products, for the moment, to companies and professionals. They went on to take care of what they called «the most immersive augmented reality case for business«.

Thus, already with this target audience present, the second version of the Magic Leap glasses arrived last September. It costs $3,200, and can currently be purchased online. Of course, it is designed for business uses, and the company has reached several agreements with other companies, as well as with resale channels, to focus its objective on this segment.

The second version of Magic Leap’s glasses reaches a market that already has several augmented and expanded reality devices, as well as others that cover both. One of the most prominent is HoloLens, but there is also the Google Glass Enterprise 2 and other glasses from Vuzix and Lenovo. However, the reviews it has received this time are much better than the first time.

Until now, those who have tried them assure that the improvements incorporated in Magic Leap 2 have been quite significant, and highlight its greater comfort and power compared to its first version. Besides, offer a larger field of vision, both in height and width, than other models of augmented reality glasses. Critics also highlight how easy it is to work with them, thanks to the fact that they incorporate an operating system based on Android.

But Johnson isn’t satisfied, noting that they still have a lot to do on basic engineering processes before they can create a device that’s accessible to consumers. She believes that “what you need is a super light device”, and that “it needs to look like glasses”. The Magic Leap 2 is processed as an attached device that is worn on the hip, something that is not suitable for the consumer market, according to the company’s directive.

«Magic Leap 2 has gone a long way to be lighter. They are 20% lighter and are half the size of the previous version. Therefore, we have adjusted the measurements, which has been useful for the daily use that someone in an industrial environment can give it. Even for a surgeon during long-term surgery. But for normal walking, the device is still not what a consumer would wear for an entire day.«.

In order to make a compact device like the one Johnson wants, however, they are limited by current electronics. Especially the one related to batteries. All this makes «hard to get down to that size. The battery is a barrier. Also the processor. Now we have the processor separated from the helmet, that’s why we can make it so light, since it more or less hangs on the belt, or goes into a pocket. It’s a bit heavier, and it can get hot, because it’s a processor. That is why we do not believe that it is appropriate to integrate it into the helmet today. It is not comfortable. There are others on the market that have done it, and it’s their biggest complaint: it’s clunky, it gets hot, and it’s heavy. Therefore, we have to solve all this to be able to bring it to consumers«.

On the other hand, Johnson is convinced that the next great advance will come over time and that it will affect various areas of hardware «It’s the same thing that will happen in mobile phones, the integration of silicon. The CPU that runs on our mobile phones used to have a lot of components, and it used to be bigger too. And my old company. Qualcomm puts more and more features on that chip. This allows to have a very small and light device, and very efficient in terms of energy consumption. And we’re still going down that route«.

Johnson also points to some devices on the market that are little more than a screen. For her, these types of devices, although they are not immersive like Magic Leap, «they could solve the problem of an anesthetist, for example, who only wants to see the constants in view. This is quite easy to achieve. It’s just putting a small screen in your field of view, and not blocking anything else. This is something that can be done today. But for a fully immersive augmented reality experience that is truly useful to consumers, it’s still a few years away, about five.«.

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