Thu, Jul 14, 2016 - Page 11 News List

Magic Leap ramps up production for new type of VR

Reuters, ASPEN, Colorado

Magic Leap Inc, a startup backed by technology powerhouses including Google and Alibaba Inc that has raised more than US$1.4 billion, has hired more than 600 employees and is close to starting production of its first “mixed reality” products.

Speaking at the Fortune magazine technology conference in Aspen, Colorado, Magic Leap chief executive Rony Abovitz said the company was debugging its production line in Florida and would launch the products soon.

He declined to give a date.

Magic Leap has developed a technology that allows computer generated images to be fully integrated into a real-world landscape. It is akin to how the Pokemon Go game combines computer images and reality, though Magic Leap promises fully realistic, 3D computer images.

“In Magic Leap, I would see Pokemon just like I see real people,” Abovitz said. “We love what they’re doing. It’s a gateway to a whole new future.”

The company is one of the most ambitious tech startups of recent years.

“We’re a full-stack tech company,” Abovitz said. “We do the hardware, the software, electronics, chip design and sensors. We want to deliver something that never existed before.”

The company is working with several outside developers and is to open a developer laboratory in the San Francisco Bay Area, Abovitz said.

Consumer applications will come first, he said, but the company is already working on business and medical uses for the product.

Magic Leap’s efforts come after privacy concerns forced Alphabet to stop producing Google Glass, which overlays computer images onto the field of vision. Microsoft Corp is focusing on business applications for its HoloLens smartglasses launched earlier this year.

Timothy Carone, a professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in Indiana, said the success of Pokemon Go on smartphones could spur faster development from hardware makers — Microsoft with its HoloLens, the secretive startup Magic Leap, or Google, which could still revive its failed Glass headgear.

“The reaction [to Pokemon Go] is a quick of vote of: ‘Yeah, they got this right,’” Carone said. “My guess is that a lot of developers have gone back to figure out how to take this approach.”

Additional reporting by AP

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