Just days before the release of the first image of the Magic Leap device, the company's CEO, Rony Abovitz, knew that the biggest moment of his life was about to unfold the following week. But instead of hunkering down in the Florida-based confines of the company's skunkworks, he instead decided to deliver a speech to the public about, what else, the future.
On Dec. 14, a mere seven days before the debut of the Magic Leap One: Creator Edition, Abovitz mounted the stage to outline his vision for the possible future of science and technology in front of an audience of graduating students at the University of Miami, his alma mater.
Beyond the current mixed reality future at Magic Leap, Abovitz revealed more of his personal vision of the technology and science in the coming years for the planet. Starting by recommending that the assembled graduates add the virtual reality-themed novel Ready Player One to their reading lists, he then untethered himself from present reality and dove into the speculative.
True to his often unique approach when sharing his thoughts, instead of making direct predictions, he formatted his outlook as "a letter to the future."
"Thank god we switched to solar and wind power by 2035, what a mess we'd be without that," Abovitz said, during the commencement speech, launching into the first of his many hopes-as-predictions. "We also made a clean and safe fusion engine, we kind of made a baby star. And it really runs incredibly well."
In a recent company video (below), Abovitz says that he's always been attracted to science fiction and surrealism. Hoo boy, that's an understatement.
That's right, it gets better.
His opening futurist salvo was one of the more tame predictions he delivered to an audience who must have been wondering if they'd made a wrong turn and sat down at the sci-fi poetry slam down the street.
"The whole earth now has all the energy and food it will ever need. It was always right here, right in front of us," said Abovitz. "That fusion thing? It really does work. Now we have rapid printing [of] anything out of anything. We can terraform asteroids and planets. Mars? I'm sorry, Mars sucks. I said it. It's just a big sandy parking lot. No Wi-Fi, no internet …"
Mars shade aside, somewhere, Elon Musk just realized he has a new best friend in the eccentric tech moguls club.
"We did learn a lot about life on other planets. We built a trailer park in space. We also built our first interplanetary space port," said Abovitz, in full sci-fi fanfic territory now. "Jupiter and Saturn, they are awesome. Surfing those rings on an astro board, nothing beats that experience in space. Maybe snowboarding on Pluto. Actually the best is what we call black hole spelunking. Stephen Hawking invented it, it's a really intense thing, not for the timid, but it's really, really cool."
But it wasn't all far out, science-powered imagineering. He also touched on a couple of topics we're already grappling with.
"AI and robots, that got messy really quickly. But we figured it out," said Abovitz. "We had Asimov's three laws, but we added a fourth … The fourth law: We shall use the power of AI to amplify people and help people, not to replace them … We also learned that driving exponential technologies — discovering science, all kinds of new and amazing things — [not] binding the outcome of that research and capability to ethics, and what is good for humanity, can be a terribly bad thing."
It was around this point in the speech that the imaginative CEO finally touched on what is clearly his view of Magic Leap One's part in the future.
"[In the future] we do not live in a VR simulation," said Abovitz, "But we figured that our brain is co-creating the world that we experience. We live in this world and we make this world better by filling it without creative imagination. And then we share that with each other."
That part could have been pulled directly from Magic Leap's marketing material released earlier this week. He was tipping his hand, but buried amid all the colorful prognostications, it was hard to tell.
Later, he went on to talk about astroid emergencies, AI clones, quantum theory, time travel, and even alien invasions of "laser rabbits." Yes, really. You can watch the entire speech here (jump to just after the 35-minute mark).
CEOs like Apple's Steve Jobs taught us that in order to succeed, we need to "think different." And now Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is very seriously telling us to expect to see Mars colonies in the coming years as he simultaneously disrupts the auto industry with electric cars. Now we have a new player in the idiosyncratic tech founder sweepstakes.
The only question now is: is his brain powered by the "right" kind of weirdness that will lead to a massive shift in how we compute, or is this just another well funded, quixotic tech founder who talks a better game than he executes?
If, as the company promises, we get our hands on the Magic Leap One in 2018, the product will give us the answer.