It turns out that the government of Saudi Arabia has managed to do something last month's Game Developers Conference couldn't — give us a few new glimpses of the Magic Leap One being worn by someone other than Shaq.
Last month, Magic Leap used GDC to launch its SDK, hold a number of private parties at a special "Magic Leap House," and even give a few select attendees private, apparently NDA-locked demos. But while many were hoping to see the company use the event to hold the first public demonstration of the device, Magic Leap instead opted to avoid even showing the headset in public.
That's why these new images of the Magic Leap One, posted on the Twitter account titled "Riyadh, Saudi Arabia," are so surprising. The Riyadh account (Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia), which describes itself as delivering "the most important political and social news and all the important events of the capital of Saudi Arabia," shows the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Los Angeles trying on the Magic Leap One while being assisted by Rony Abovitz, the CEO and founder of Magic Leap.
In one image we see Abovitz using an Apple MacBook to show the crown prince "something," while in another we see the visiting royal actually trying the device on. In yet another image we see two Magic Leap One headsets sitting on a small table, each paired with the Lightpack component, with at least one of the devices looking like it's in charging mode via a white cable plugged into an electrical outlet.
The visit to Los Angeles is just one part of the crown prince's US tour, which is designed to "sell the country as a society that is in the midst of major cultural and economic reforms," according to the Los Angeles Times.
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"Entertainment executives who meet with the prince and dignitaries are hoping to learn more about the country's plans," according to the report, which noted that the county plans to invest $10 billion in film projects. "The Public Investment Fund — the kingdom's major sovereign wealth vehicle — is close to buying a stake of less than 10% in [Hollywood agent Ari] Emanuel's talent agency and media company Endeavor for at least $400 million."
During his visit to the West Coast, the crown prince also met with tech luminaries including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Of course, anyone who has been following Magic Leap's story, which has mostly revolved around securing massive investments (over $2.3 billion to date), remembers that just last month the company landed $400 million in new funding from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
So was the crown prince impressed by Abovitz's demo in LA? There's no way to know for sure, but we now know that Saudi Arabia's massive investment in Magic Leap wasn't simply a blind bet on a hot startup, it appears to represent a real interest in the future of immersive computing and entertainment.
Amid recent reports of Magic Leap hardware being shipped to select developers under heavy security, Abovitz took to Twitter on Monday night to confirm what many have already known — that some developers outside of the company, who were unable to mention their access, have been using the device for some time.
"As an FYI, we have had a private early access testing/feedback program going for a good part of a year with a small group of creators/devs," wrote Abovitz. "We are going to greatly expand access for creators to Magic Leap One in 2018, the creative burst should be awesome and fun."
While we wait for that expansion, hopefully, the next public view of the Magic Leap One won't take a Hall of Fame sports star or nearly half a billion in investment to get us another fleeting look at the device that may or may not eventually live up to all the mystery and hype.
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