- Thomson Reuters
It’s official: The secretive “cinematic reality” startup Magic Leap has raised $793.5 million in Series C funding at an astounding $4.5 billion post-money valuation.
And according to Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz, that means the company’s mysterious “mixed reality lightfield” technology – which has been described by some as a combination of virtual reality and an acid trip – is getting closer to launching.
Abovitz tells Business Insider that the roughly 500-person team needed the hefty cash infusion to help it accelerate the manufacturing and launch phase of its product.
“We’re now setting up a production line to mass fabricate,” he said. “We’re sort of past the ‘sciencing the heck out it’ phase and now getting this pilot production level of it.”
When exactly the technology will become available to the public is still undetermined. Abovitz says he doesn’t want to put a date on it yet.
What is it?
So, what exactly is Magic Leap making?
Unlike virtual reality products like Facebook’s forthcoming Oculus Rift, the company doesn’t create a 3D world for you inside of a headset that a consumer must wear.
And Abovitz also describes it as “very different” from what people call augmented reality like Google Glass or Microsoft’s HoloLens, in which digital images are overlayed on real world scenery. Although Microsoft hasn’t revealed exactly how its holographic goggles will work, either, Magic Leap describes its technology as projecting digital light fields onto your retina, helping your eyes and brain see things that look like they’re part of the real world.
You know, so you can feeling like you’re fighting dragons:
- Magic Leap
Or creating your own solar system:
- Magic Leap
Or watching sports:
- Magic Leap
Or seeing whales leaping from gymnasium floors!
- Magic Leap
Obviously, all those images are just Magic Leap renderings. But they demonstrate what the company is shooting for: A device that can make you feel like the virtual world and real world can meld together.
The world is your screen
Abovitz has said that the company is creating a computer that can turn the world into a “screen,” allowing you to interact with other people while at the same time mutually interacting with artificial elements that feel real.
“I think in media and entertainment, a lot of your wildest, fun dreams are going to come to life, but it’s not just that,” he says. “Presence and experience are really powerful. So if there’s something you’re thinking about buying, or want to understand, or want to visit, you can see that in a really natural way.”
The biggest hurdle at this point isn’t technical, he says, but creative. The team has notoriously hired a wide-range of experts in fields like film, art, and music, in addition to hardware, programming, and bio-tech.
“We’re doing a lot of workshops on how to get creative people to rethink, ‘How do you communicate in this new medium?” he says. “How do you tell a story? How do you develop interfaces that are very fluid and natural?”
He says that the most exciting thing that the team recently built is an experience where “you feel like you’re five years old and you get to paint and create and build into the world.”
“We created something that just gives you this amazing freedom and fluidity,” he says. “It’s like your creativity is just flowing out of your fingertips and into the world and blending with it. It’s an app that will probably make it at launch, and it’s completely wild and awesome.”
Google once again participated in funding Magic Leap’s latest round, though Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba led the investment (and Qualcomm Ventures, Warner Brothers, Fidelity, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and others also participated).
Meanwhile Oculus is nearing its release, Microsoft is preparing to start issuing HoloLens developer kits, Google is creating a new virtual reality division, and even Apple seems to be on a VR hiring spree.
But with one of the biggest funding rounds in history under its belt, Magic Leap is going into hyper-drive to deliver on all its lofty promises. As the company accelerating on its commercial launch plan, it’s going to get a lot quieter, according to Abovitz:
“We need to be heads down, and say a lot less, and ultimately deliver something that we hope is great and let that speak on behalf of the company.”