Magic Leap’s New Headset Could Lead to AR for Everyone

The company’s cash infusion is a sign of a growing industry

Key Takeaways

  • The announcement of the new Magic Leap 2 augmented reality headset is a sign that the technology is starting to mature.
  • The Magic Leap 2 is intended for businesses, but experts say the tech is likely to trickle down to user headsets.
  • Augmented reality is on the cusp of opening a new world of possibilities for users, observers say.
People in an office wearing Magic Leap headsets

Magic Leap

Augmented reality (AR) headsets may be getting closer to a store shelf near you. 

The AR company Magic Leap recently announced that it’s gotten a cash infusion and will release an improved headset, breathing new life into a company that some thought was lagging. The new headset, the Magic Leap 2, is intended for businesses, but experts say the company’s revival is a sign that AR could take off for users. 

"While the hardware has advanced, the applications of AR have been lackluster, and few consumers even want the product except for a handful of gamers and tech aficionados," Quynh Mai, CEO of AR and virtual reality (VR) company Moving Image and Content, told Lifewire in an email interview. "With Magic Leap’s move into the enterprise sector, and finding a truly good use case with remote work, there is now hope for true relevancy and need."

Magic Leaping

The Magic Leap 2 AR headset is scheduled to ship next year, although select customers already are beta-testing.

The AR experience is different from virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, which are intended to immerse viewers entirely in another place. Instead, AR projects digital 3D objects on top of the real world.

"AR is that bridge between going through kitchen or bathroom layouts on Instagram, and [someone] making that vision come to life in their own space."

Despite enthusiastic early reviews of the Magic Leap concept, the company has been criticized for its slow product development. 

Magic Leap announced a $500 million infusion of cash intended to jumpstart its improved headset’s introduction into new markets. The company said workers can use the product to access important information while keeping their hands free. For example, doctors could reference scans while performing surgery. 

"This more advanced headset boasts critical updates that make it more immersive and even more comfortable, with leading optics, the largest field of view in the industry, and dimming—a first-to-market innovation that enables the headset to be used in brightly lit settings, in addition to a significantly smaller and lighter form factor," Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson wrote in a company blog post.

The Case for AR

Augmented reality is on the cusp of opening a new world of possibilities for users, observers say. Wellness and fitness applications like an AR personal trainer or relaxation methods are one example, Joe Matson, CEO of AR and VR company Gallant Rogue, told Lifewire in an email interview.

Live and sporting events are beginning "to accentuate themselves with AR experiences, such as the NFL team the Jaguars," Matson added. "Lastly, let’s not forget gaming and the impact Pokemon Go had on AR and the immersive technology industry as a whole."

The biggest advantage AR has right now is to help a user take an object or space as it currently is, design or manipulate it digitally, then have instructions or directions to the exact spots in the real world to physically make those changes, David Xing, CEO of AR and VR company Plott, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"AR is that bridge between going through kitchen or bathroom layouts on Instagram, and [someone] making that vision come to life in their own space," Xing added. 

Magic Leap 2 AR headset

Magic Leap

An AR application that could give build instructions for any flat pack furniture based on scanning the parts "would be every DIYer’s dream," Matson said. 

But even though the Magic Leap 2 is a step forward, current AR solutions are still a long way from reaching their potential. 

"In today’s form, AR is really a cool gimmick, to be used once or twice but not a device that has consistent, useful real world use," Mai said. "It's useful because it's fun and engaging. Sure, I can 'attend' a concert or watch an immersive art piece, but as we have seen...a virtual version of the real world is a poor substitute for the real thing."

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