When the "Just another day in the office at Magic Leap" video was released last year, it was called a mind-blowing, stunning, and breathtaking take on mixed reality gaming. It was a great presentation of what the technology could be, but not for a second did I think it was anything other than a concept video, and I'm not the only one who thought that. This was a goal to reach for mixed reality, not the reality.
But a recent post by Reed Albergotti from The Information (warning: paywall), who talked with former Magic Leap employees, has instigated a lot of people into calling out Magic Leap for faking their videos, being overhyped, as well as misleading the public on its timeframe.
[N]o such game existed at the time, according to two former employees with direct knowledge. The video was not actually filmed using any Magic Leap technology. It was made by New Zealand-based special effects company Weta Workshop, which has worked on movies like "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Hobbit," the employees said. One of them called it an "aspirational conceptual" video. The employees said some at the company felt the video misled the public.
So you mean the video that clearly spells out (in the credits) Weta Workshop—you know, the guys that made all the virtual orcs and goblins, and most everything else, in The Lord of The Rings trilogy—made something for Magic Leap that was a 3D rendering? I am pretty sure that is what Weta does for a living.
Would a company like Magic Leap have been able to generate the type of capital they have, or recruited elite talent, without strong concept art? Likely not.
Generally, the purpose of concept art is to set the goals and expectations for the team to achieve. Concept art is used in most creative endeavors, and without it, finding a cohesive art direction would often be impossible. Sometimes concept art is released to show off the ideas to the world to build excitement, and it can be a simple and inexpensive way to build hype around a property. Cheap marketing.
Update: Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, one of Magic Leap's investors, tweeted this today to throw cold water on the growing speculation that not only was the video of Dr. Grordbort's Invaders was faked, but that the game featured in the video may have also been faked:
So the game definitely exists (and is playable). They just didn't have a good way to capture mixed reality at the time. So, from their perspective, they had to create the video with special effects to demonstrate what is ultimately a 3D mixed reality experience in a 2D video.
While the above video definitely falls under this category, there are some Magic Leap videos that are more true to form, such as "A New Morning" (below), which was shot directly through Magic Leap technology.
In the end, choices in marketing seem to be the crux of the issue here, and maybe the Magic Leap team was aware of that. As we reported a few days ago, Brenda Freeman just joined the Magic Leap executives as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)—will she try to temper expectations until it gets closer to release? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.