The past year has revealed a gaping hole of opportunity in the world of business called virtual meetings. Some existing players like Zoom hopped on that opportunity, while others like Skype seemed stuck on the sidelines, and Google Meet just managed to catch up in time to snag some of the shift in remote work.
But amid that shift, one question that has repeatedly come up is: Where are the augmented reality tools that promised to help us navigate this new remote frontier? While many upstarts and established players have gradually moved to meet our new needs, it turns out that Magic Leap is also working on its own solution to support the newly robust virtual meetings market.
In an interview with IDA Ireland, the agency tasked with encouraging foreign direct investment into Ireland, new Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson (a new member of the NR30) revealed the development of the new app while explaining the company's shift to enterprise business.
"We're working on an internal app right now that we call C3, which stands for communications, collaboration, and co-presence," said Johnson, speaking via video meeting from her den at her home in the US. "Those are the things we need to improve a bit more if we're to continue working in this virtual way. We're focusing on, sort of bringing to life meetings. Think of this, what we're doing now, as a 2D meeting, we want to develop 3D meetings, where people will actually be sitting in the same room as you, but virtually."
The revelation that Magic Leap is working to launch its own competitor in the virtual meetings space is particularly exciting for many die-hard Magic Leap users committed to the platform who might be wondering why the company hasn't more aggressively leveraged its technology to take advantage of the new virtual meetings landscape.
In the recent past, we've covered come of Magic Leap's forays into virtual meetings software, most notably, the Avatar Chat application. Overall, the app has some promising features that currently allows users to interact with avatars of other people in remote locations, all with spatial awareness in your own home. Despite this, we haven't seen much evidence of large scale adoption of the application from the companies that are known to be developing for the Magic Leap platform. However, if Johnson's anecdotal experiences with the new C3 app are accurate, that may be about to change.
"I hold my board meetings now inside of the C3 application. It's internal right now. My board members are calling in from all over the world and they actually come alive here in my den behind me, it's amazing," said Johnson. "There's something about having them feel like they're physically in front of you that makes it feel like a meeting again. So if they walk behind me in virtual space I hear the spatial audio track the person."
And while this might sound exciting for some of the existing non-corporate users of the Magic Leap One, let's not forget that Johnson is laser-focused on enterprise now, so there's a chance that this new app might not ever make it to casual users of the device.
If that turns out to be the case, Spatial already has a solution in play that allows businesses and individuals to meet virtually using avatars (that include your actual face) and video across the mediums of AR (including Magic Leap, HoloLens, and iOS), VR (including Oculus Quest), and desktop video. Still, C3 could turn out to be a kind of redemption second act for Magic Leap as it works to reinvent itself while also competing with the HoloLens 2 and a growing number of lower-priced AR options for enterprise customers.
"We can put up an infinite number of screens and look at a variety of different parts of the business. We can turn to each other and you can see expressions," said Johnson, further describing how the app functions. "Some of the things that were missing in these 2D communications that we're all in right now. So I think AR can actually help during the recovery period, and then post-pandemic, because I think we can just make that experience more human, become more alive than what we're all experiencing right now."