|Type of business||Private|
|Key people||Richard Taylor
Magic Leap is a US startup company that is working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display which superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects, by projecting a digital light field into the user's eye, involving technologies potentially suited to applications in augmented reality and computer vision. It is attempting to construct a light-field chip using silicon photonics.
Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz in 2010 and has raised $1.4 billion from a list of investors including Google and China's Alibaba Group. In December 2016 Forbes estimated that Magic Leap was worth $4.5 billion. As of June 2017, the company has not released a product to the market.
Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz in 2010. In October 2014, when the company was still operating in stealth mode (but already reported to be working on projects relating to augmented reality and computer vision), it had raised more than $540 million of venture funding from Google, Qualcomm, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins, among other investors. Richard Taylor of special effects company Weta Workshop is involved in Magic Leap alongside Abovitz. Science fiction author Neal Stephenson joined the company in December 2014. Graeme Devine is their Chief Creative Officer & Senior VP Games, Apps and Creative Experiences.
According to past versions of its website, the startup evolved from a company named "Magic Leap Studios" which around 2010 was working on a graphic novel and a feature film series, and in 2011 became a corporation, releasing an augmented reality app at Comic-Con that year.
A November 2014 analysis by Gizmodo, based on job listings, trademark registrations and patent applications from Magic Leap, concluded that the company appears to aim at building "a Google Glass on steroids that can seamlessly blend computer-generated graphics with the real world". It has also been compared to Microsoft HoloLens.
Before Magic Leap, a head-mounted display using light fields was already demonstrated by Nvidia in 2013, and the MIT Media Lab has also constructed a 3D display using "compressed light fields"; however Magic Leap asserts that it achieves better resolution with a new proprietary technique that projects an image directly onto the user's retina. According to a researcher who has studied the company's patents, Magic Leap is likely to use stacked silicon waveguides.
On March 19, 2015 Magic Leap released a demo video titled "Just another day in the office at Magic Leap". The video includes augmented reality gaming and productivity applications but it was unclear if the video was actual footage using their technology or a simulated experience.
On October 10, 2015 Magic Leap released actual footage of their product. While still not showing any hardware, the footage claims that it was filmed through a Magic Leap technology without the use of special effects or compositing. The video suggests that virtual 3D objects can be occluded by real objects, which may be predefined geometry in the scene but lead to the speculation of 3D spatial mapping being used. It also shows virtual light reflecting from a real table, which seem to be not correctly placed in space and therefore may suggest that the reflections are part of the virtual scene without interacting with the real world (as simple faked shadows in early video games). The video showcases only quite bright objects superimposed over dark areas of the real world. This suggests that the hardware can only add new light without blocking incoming light from the real world. This would allow to render only fully transparent objects which emit or reflect light, and may not allow virtual objects to occlude real objects. This would work well for bright virtual objects in front of dark real backgrounds as in the video, but not work for darker virtual objects in front of brighter real backgrounds.
On December 9, 2015, Forbes reported on documents filed in the state of Delaware, indicating a Series C funding round of $827m. This funding round could bring the company’s total funding to $1.4 billion, and its post-money valuation to $3.7 billion.
On February 2, 2016, Financial Times reported that Magic Leap further raised another funding round of close to $800m, valuing the startup at $4.5 billion.
On February 18th, 2017, Magic Leap acquired the 3D division of Swiss computer vision company Dacuda.
In 2017, a former employee sued Magic Leap for sex discrimination. Magic Leap is currently settling the suit.
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