Startup Magic Leap Raises $542 Million to Build Next-gen Augmented and Virtual Reality

(PHOTO CREDIT: courtesy of Magic Leap)
(PHOTO CREDIT: courtesy of Magic Leap)

If you’re a card-carrying member of the Where’s my jetpack? school of innovation, lamenting every new messaging app as a sign of the bankrupt imagination of the tech world, this news is for you: There’s a company that, at best, you heard of a week ago, based on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (!), that today announces it has raised a jaw-dropping $542 million in second-round financing from an unparalleled lineup of bigfoot investors to complete product development and commercialize what its CEO and founder Rony Abovitz calls “a hardware, software, firmware, and development platform” that, oh, you know, replicates the visual perception system of the human brain as a go-anywhere, mobile computing platform.

The press-release news today is stealth startup Magic Leap’s massive funding event, led by Google (not either of Google’s two venture arms, but corporate Google–more on that in a moment) and including investors such as Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment and its CEO Thomas Tull, along with A-list VCs Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins. But the real news is that some of the smartest people in technology and entertainment are putting away their “rectangle fetishism,” as one investor describes the tech industry’s obsession with screens, and hungrily seeking out what comes after the smartphone (or smartwatch) to emerge as the next computing interface.

No one is willing today to explain exactly what the heck Magic Leap is making that’ll replace all our rectangles, but it sounds like a blending of what we currently call augmented reality and virtual reality. In fact, Dr Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm’s executive chairman and one of Magic Leap’s new board advisors, along with Google executive Sundar Pichai, used precisely those two terms in an email to me explaining why he invested. “I’m not sure what the category will be called,” Tull says when I ask him, “but it augments and brings you into a world in a completely realistic, immersive way without taxing your eyes or brain.” Jacobs also called Magic Leap “immersive and engaging.” Abovitz acknowledges that he’s using “dynamic digitized light field technology” to build what an unnamed source let slip is currently called Dragonstone (a reference to half a dozen nerd touchstones, from Game of Thrones to Skyrim), and Tull dropped the word “glasses” at one point in our conversation in a way that inadvertently implied that’s what Magic Leap’s current hardware interface looks like.

Abovitz, though, is most eloquent today in defining Magic Leap by what it’s not. “It’s not holography, it’s not stereoscopic 3-D,” he says. “You don’t need a giant robot to hold it over your head, you don’t need to be at home to use it. It’s not made from off-the-shelf parts. It’s not a cellphone in a View-Master.” Late in our conversation, he begs me not to frame this story as being Google versus Facebook because of the search company’s direct investment–and even though I’m not, note that he’s the one who backhanded Facebook-owned Oculus VR twice without prompting.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Fast Company
David Lidsky

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