Founded in 2011, Florida-based tech startup Magic Leap has raised another $461m via Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, taking its combined funding raised to date to $2.3bn, all without releasing a product.
Details and Implications:
Magic Leap teased the world at the end of last year with images of its Mixed Reality (MR) goggles – Magic Leap One – rumoured for release some time in 2018. The Magic Leap One goggles, backed by Mixed Reality technology, not only overlay virtual objects onto the real world like Augmented Reality (AR) but also anchor them there, allowing users to interact with both the real world and the virtual environment at the same time.
The Magic Leap One will superimpose the digital world and integrate it into the real world. For example, it could mean watching a Virtual TV on a wall, going to the kitchen to grab a snack and coming back and resuming where you left off. Or perhaps pinning your favourite sports team highlights on the wall, creating tabs and multiple screens on your wall. Ultimately, potentially replacing smartphones and TVs as we know it.
It’s newest partnership with the NBA will allow for exactly that: the ability to watch multiple live games alongside stats, tweets and more, promising to take users courtside without courtside costs (although we have no idea how much Magic Leap One will cost yet). In addition to an NBA sponsorship and partnership, Magic Leap has also announced a partnership with WETA Workshop, a mixed reality and game studio that is working on applications for Magic Leap. Gaming within the Magic Leap One platform means having characters integrated within the real world – think Pokemon Go on steroids.
The super-secretive Magic Leap One is set to include a pair of goggles, an external puck-shaped computer called the Lightpack and a handheld controller, which will change the way we interact with technology by ‘harmonising people and technology’ said Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. So far we have only seen pictures and schematics.
The MR startup has so far raised $2.3bn in funding from behemoths like Google, which invested $542m; Alibaba ($793.5m); Temasek Holdings (a Singapore state-run holdings firm, $502m) Morgan Stanley, Warner Brothers and most recently Saudi Arabia’s investment arm, Public Investors Fund, which invested $461m.
The appetite to invest in mixed reality start-ups by the world’s leading technology and investment firms is still strong, so what does that mean for existing glasses / mixed reality / AR products already in the market? With HoloLens, Google Glass and Snap Spectacles already in the mix, where will Magic Leap One fit in…not to mention anything that Apple may belatedly come up with.
Magic Leap has racked up $2.3bn in funding since 2011 with only the promise of an MR headset to rival the existence of smartphones, tablets, TVs and essential devices. While it has secretly worked on its offering, a variety of AR and Mixed Reality services have arrived (and some departed). It’s hard to think of a firm that has promised so much and delivered so little in seven years – will 2018 be the year that the hype finally becomes reality?