When you run an augmented reality company worth billions of dollars, backed by some of the biggest names in tech, and you haven't even released a product yet, even late night tweetstorms rank as worthy of dissection. Such is the case with Rony Abovitz, CEO of Magic Leap, who decided to spend a little time on Twitter on Wednesday to outline his vision of the future of immersive computing.
Things must be busy over at Magic Leap, because it looks like no one told Abovitz that he now has 280 characters to play with, and didn't need to parse out his thoughts in 14 different tweets. Nevertheless, his latest mysterious missive will only add to the continued low-level hype surrounding the company, which now has almost $2 billion in investment money from the likes of Google, Alibaba, J.P. Morgan, and Fidelity Management, among others.
"Spatial computing is easily the next 100 years. What will matter most is our humanity and empathy to each other," said Abovitz, who then immediately teased us with the following anecdote. "Fun thought for the night: when we have a new visitor, most come by wondering if Magic Leap is real. I think almost everyone leaves asking 'what is reality?'"
Magic Leap has been extremely careful about who gets to see early prototypes of the device. Anyone I've spoken to who claims to have seen the device also claims that they've been forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement and are unable to offer details on how the device works or what looks like. In fact, when I met with a Magic Leap executive back in 2015 at my New York office, I spent over an hour quizzing him with all manner of framing questions in an attempt to get answers, and I was successfully thwarted with only the vaguest details regarding not only what it looks like, but when it will actually be released.
The following year, a report from The Information claimed to have seen one of Magic Leap's prototype devices, which didn't live up to a lot of the expectations surrounding the company. At the time, Abovitz quickly shifted into damage control mode by releasing a series of tweets to combat the negative take, indicating that what the reporter had seen may not have been the final product. "To a few of the grumpy mouse tech blogger writers: you too will get to play the real thing when we ship," Abovitz tweeted.
And while the brief episode created a number of new skeptics regarding Magic Leap's claims, the fact that Google, Alibaba, and others have plunged another half billion into the company just last month indicates that some very important people believe what Abovitz is selling, and they're backing that belief up with money.
"Last 100 years: the dominance of physics and engineering. The next 100 years: we likely begin to understand the mind and neuroscience in really deep ways — less outer space, more inner space," said Abovitz in a continuation of his Thursday night tweetstorm. "On the system: we are testing it in almost all possible ways — and we will ship when it is ready. Anyone who cares about this field would do the same. No shortcuts."
That last part is yet another indication that the company is feeling the pressure to finally release a product after years of anticipation and investment. During a question and answer session this summer, Abovitz attempted to allay any concerns by revealing that the company was already in the process of manufacturing Magic Leap devices at a former Motorola factory in Florida. Of course, he didn't reveal a price or release date, but the fact that manufacturing was happening, somewhere, was a surprising revelation from the incredibly secretive startup.
"Best parts of our current interaction discovery: software can feel like living, reactive art — with emotional impact. In everyday life: software that can be aware of what you need, and respond to you intuitively, like a good friend," said Abovitz, continuing his nighttime musings on the future of the company.
"Our job now: tuning the platform and our tools so creators and devs can explore their own visions and ideas. We are not chasing perfection — we are chasing 'feels good, feels right.' Tuning for everyday magic. It is like tuning a guitar — when it sounds good, and it plays well, done. The feedback loop is everything. We are quietly learning with early developers - and listening to what they want and need."
These are very interesting words from Abovitz. And they may even have something to do with reality. Maybe even soon. And sure, adding the master of cinematic effects from The Matrix, John Gaeta, is the perfect executive addition to set imaginations ablaze as to what kind of immersive computing Magic Leap will be capable of.
But as other augmented reality and mixed reality players continue to release better iterations of their products, some believe the time for talk at Magic Leap is over. People want to see a product, not more words.