Like many individuals, Peggy Johnson was dazzled by Magic Leap’s expertise when she visited the corporate’s Florida headquarters. Seeing the best way its AR headset fused the actual world and digital imagery right into a single expertise, she was “blown away by the expertise—I couldn’t consider it,” she recollects. After which, when she realized within the spring of 2020 that founder Rony Abovitz was stepping down as CEO, she acted on her long-held ambition to run an organization and “simply deliberately raised my hand.”
On the time, Johnson was Microsoft’s government VP of enterprise growth, after spending 1 / 4 century at Qualcomm. However when she was named as Abovitz’s successor as Magic Leap CEO in July 2020, the bloom was distinctly off the corporate’s rose. A lot of the early pleasure over its headset had devolved into skepticism and even cynicism. The corporate had abandoned the consumer market and laid off 1,000 employees, and there have been rumors it had tried to sell itself. Her challenges included each charting a brand new future for Magic Leap and overcoming perceptions that it was higher at hoopla than transport helpful merchandise.
Final week, on the Net Summit convention in Lisbon, I caught up with Johnson, who up to date me on plans for Magic Leap 2, the corporate’s second-generation headset, which is due for normal launch subsequent yr. She appeared cautious to not overpromise. “We’re not attempting to overhype in any respect,” she advised me. “[We’re] simply attempting to indicate what it will possibly do.”
Extra particularly, Magic Leap has determined to deal with what its expertise can do in three particular markets: healthcare, manufacturing, and protection. “The explanation that they’re of essentially the most curiosity is they’re already used to carrying one thing on their eyes,” says Johnson. The particular purposes the corporate has in thoughts embody all the pieces from coaching factory-floor staff to giving surgeons the power to seek the advice of distant specialists throughout operations.
Like the primary Magic Leap headset, Magic Leap 2 isn’t self-contained: It connects by way of cable to an exterior pod that gives it with computational muscle and battery energy. However the brand new model is “smaller and lighter and sooner, and it’s obtained 3 times the compute,” says Johnson. “The chip inside is AMD—a semi-custom chip that we labored on with them—and it’s an all-day wearable product.”
Magic Leap 2 additionally has a taller area of view for the digital imagery it melds with the truth customers see by way of the headset, permitting the augmented show to cowl twice as a lot house as with the first-generation headset. “The larger the sector of view, the higher, and this is a reasonably huge area of view,” Johnson says.
Even when Magic Leap’s days of being the tech business’s most tantalizing, talked-about startup are lengthy over, it nonetheless has the eye of 1 vital constituency: traders. In October, the corporate announced $500 million in new funding, nearly matching the $542 million spherical that helped to place it on the map within the first place again in 2014. “It’s a comforting feeling to have that carried out now, and specializing in the product and rising the ecosystem, that are the subsequent issues we actually should lean in on,” says Johnson.
The matter of the metaverse
I couldn’t let Johnson go with out asking her in regards to the metaverse—the buzzy, barely amorphous idea of a digital world the place folks work together with one another as human avatars somewhat than by way of middleman interfaces resembling internet pages. Fb—I imply Meta—is betting its future on the metaverse and selling the intensive analysis it has underway to create AR glasses. Microsoft, whose HoloLens 2 headset Johnson calls Magic Leap’s solely direct competitor, is already teasing its imaginative and prescient of a work-centric metaverse. On condition that the AR applied sciences Magic Leap has been engaged on for years have apparent metaverse potential, is Johnson desperate to glom onto the pattern?
Magic Leap 2 stays a headset with a tethered computing appendage.
As an alternative of speaking the metaverse up, Johnson argues that the corporate’s tech isn’t but prepared, a minimum of from a mainstream perspective. Magic Leap 2 stays a headset with a tethered computing appendage—a great distance from the slim, all-in-one AR glasses which she says are vital for the metaverse to take off: “After we can get it into that type, we’ll be again [in the consumer market].”
Johnson may not be itching to pivot to the metaverse anytime quickly, however she emphasizes that it’s a large enough concept to embody a number of situations and applied sciences: “There’s a VR side. There’s an AR side. There’s a client side. There’s an enterprise side.” It feels like there must be room in there for Magic Leap. Even when the corporate’s most urgent objective is to ship on the expectations it’s been elevating—less grandiosely this time round—for its subsequent headset.