The enduringly mysterious startup Magic Leap claims it is creating a mixed reality platform unlike anything the world’s ever seen. It has raised nearly $2 billion to do it since it was founded in 2011. And finally, today, we got a first glimpse of what this platform looks like. And it looks. . .very steampunk.
These goggles, which resemble Snap’s Spectacles with their round, Harry Potter-esque lenses, are part of a “Creator Edition” system, aimed primarily at developers and early adopters. The headset itself is called “Lightware,” a name that nods to the company’s hope that its design will be less cumbersome to users than other headsets. It has six external cameras and four microphones that enable the device to track its wearer’s movements in real time, render digital images realistically, and play sound that shifts depending on where you’re standing. The goggles are connected by a long cord to a small, round computer called the “Lightpack” that clips to your pants (and resembles a next-gen walkman). You control the system using a remote simply called “Control.”
So, what’s it like to wear them? Rolling Stone‘s Brian Crecente tried the system, the specs of which are still somewhat unknown, and described them as “almost toy-like in their design, not because they feel cheap–they don’t–but because they’re so light and there seems to be so little to them.”
The system’s design language is simultaneously futuristic and old-fashioned. Magic Leap senior vice president of design, Gary Natsume, tells Crecente that the hardware’s design language is centered around a shade of “moon dust” grey and the repetition of perfect circles, a mix of old and new designed to stand out from other headsets. “The lens are a very iconic form,” Natsume tells Rolling Stone. “The aspiration is that eventually, this will become like glasses and people will wear them every day.”
How might this much-anticipated system be used when developers finally get their hands on it? Magic Leap has a few ideas. The company envisions interactive shopping platforms that let you examine products as though they’re right in front of you, large displays that you can conjure up wherever you want them, and digital communication that lets you (and your avatar) meet up virtually with others. There’s also a huge potential for gaming–imagine creatures stomping around your living room with you. The system will start shipping in 2018, and the price is still unannounced.
While the launch is still a far cry from the vision Natsume cites, where we wear Lightware like we wear Warby Parker, it’s the first step for a company that’s going all-in on our mixed-reality future.