If Oculus and HTC have created most of the buzz around virtual reality, then the secretive Magic Leap has been the company we've been waiting to hear from regarding augmented or mixed reality—the placement of simulated objects in real-world fields of vision. Rumors have long swirled regarding what, exactly, the company's mixed-reality product might look like. As of today, we need wonder no longer. The company has unveiled its Magic Leap One Creator Edition goggles, a pair of sensor-studded glasses that connect to a self-contained computing pack that can be worn on one's person.
From what I can tell, Magic Leap's magic relies on inside-out tracking to build a detailed model of the user's surroundings, including walls, floors, and the planes of any furniture in the space. The company's goggles then use a proprietary method of light-field projection to create the illusion of persistent objects in those spaces. According to Rolling Stone's hands-on report, the simulated objects produced this way appear solid, not as wispy or translucent forms. Rolling Stone's man on the ground says the headset also features eye-tracking technology so that simulated characters can even establish eye contact, an experience he described as "unnerving." Like Oculus' Touch system and the HTC Vive controllers, the Magic Leap headset has a six-degrees-of-freedom tracked controller that can be used to interact with the virtual objects on display.
The experience that the Magic Leap One provides sounds incredibly compelling from secondhand descriptions, but this iteration of the headset does sound as though it suffers from a limited field of view, much like Microsoft's HoloLens does. Rolling Stone's reporter suggests that the headset's field of view is "about the size of a VHS tape held in front of you with your arms half extended." The company told Rolling Stone that future iterations of its hardware will expand this field of view for a more immersive experience.
Magic Leap isn't disclosing any of the specs of its hardware today, including the processing units that power the experience or the life of the battery that animates them. The company also isn't talking about a price tag yet, and it only goes so far as to say that its hardware will ship sometime next year. We'll be keeping our eyes open for more details on this technology as they surface.