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You didn’t think Google was going to let Facebook have all the fun, did you? Facebook bought virtual reality darling Oculus Rift back in March for a cool $2 billion, pissing off a bunch of early Rift supporters and securing its own position in the burgeoning virtual reality market. It seems that Facebook and Google have been engaging in tit-for-tat acquisitions recently, and this time is no different. Google is reportedly poised to invest in a “cinematic reality” company called Magic Leap.
It isn’t 100% clear what exactly Magic Leap does. Its website, which is well worth a visit, says that the company “brings the magic back” and shows virtual images in real-world scenarios, such as an elephant in the palm of one’s hand, or an image of a ballerina twirling at the foot of a toddler’s bed. Magic Leap’s CEO says the company is developing “the most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world,” but the company has by and large remained under the radar. But with Google’s interest, it’s not going to stay that way.
Google is apparently at the forefront of a $500 million funding campaign for Magic Leap, which also snagged $50 million in a round of venture capital in February. Based on Google’s interest and the company’s hints about what they’re working on, we can conclude that it’s something akin to a 3D virtual reality headset.
The difference appears to be that, instead of augmenting reality by creating 3D objects and landscapes, Magic Leap takes what looks like a real 3D object, or something like a 3D hologram, and superimposes it onto the real world. Magic Leap’s term “cinematic reality” is meant to distinguish its product from virtual or augmented reality. It’s likely that their headset will allow users to focus on, and even manipulate, 3D, high-resolution objects. It may work a little bit like Glyph, which projects images right onto the user’s eye. Ultimately, instead of creating a new reality, Magic Leap could combine virtual and real-world elements to provide a heightened sense of immersion. Or, as the company says, “a rocketship for the mind.” You can get some idea of what the company is talking about by look at CEO Rony Abovitz’s TEDx talk below.
It’s certainly possible that Google aims to combine Magic Leap’s technology with Google Glass or a Glass-like interface. That would be pretty awesome, and would stand to catapult Glass into its own category of wearable technology. I have to admit, Magic Leap got me thinking — if I could hold an elephant in my hands, then I could hold a redwood tree or a volcano, or, better yet, Saturn.