The partnership between Magic Leap and leading South Korean wireless carrier SK Telecom took on an added importance earlier this week as the company unveiled the world's first nationwide 5G network.
During an event at SK Telecom's headquarters in South Korea, Jung-ho Park, the company's CEO, outlined its aggressive dive into 5G, which includes a few new augmented reality initiatives.
First, SK Telecom will begin opening a series of Magic Leap One demo stations at five of its flagship stores in the country. The spatial computing demo stations will be situated in SK Telecom's "5GX Premium Experience Zone" in each store and will allow consumers to try the device by playing Rovio's Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot.
But while the relationship between Magic Leap and SK Telecom is maturing quickly, there's still no word on when the Magic Leap One might be available for sale in SK Telecom shops in South Korea, as it is this week in select AT&T shops in the US.
South Korea's role as the first major 5G country shouldn't be surprising since Akamai regularly lists (PDF) the country as first in internet connection speeds. But SK Telecom's decision to make Magic Leap such a prominent part of its recent 5G event could serve as a huge boost for the Florida-based startup as it looks to extend its reach to Asia.
In terms of immediate 5G use case applications, SK Telecom featured Samsung's new 5G-enabled Galaxy S10 smartphone during the event. The event also featured top tier South Korean celebrities including Olympic skater Yuna Kim, Korean boy band Exo, and pro gamer Faker.
The wireless company's 5G rollout will cover Seoul, as well as six additional major cities (and 85 smaller cities), and will include subways, highways, major sports stadiums, and select universities. Limited access to the 5G network will be available Friday, with more widespread access coming in the latter half of 2019.
In addition to the Magic Leap in-store stations, SK Telecom also announced plans to collaborate with Riot Games to create an AR version of League of Legends Champions Korea (one of the most watched esports game in South Korea). The company has also secured a partnership with Niantic for the launch of the company's Harry Potter mobile AR game.
"SK Telecom will continue to introduce 5G-based innovative services to lead all areas of [(Information and Communication Technologies)]," said Park. "The AR, VR, and cloud games unveiled today only mark the beginning of the age of hyper-innovation brought by 5G."
So far, Magic Leap's international footprint has been sparse, with most of its public-facing activities focused on the US. But if the company can manage to become a popular staple of South Korea, arguably the pop culture center of the universe in Asia's growing entertainment (and soon, AR) market, it could help Magic Leap ensure its fortunes in Asia in the coming years as the AR wars heat up.
Cover via Rovio/YouTube