Culture

Stunning Magic Leap demo is as real as augmented reality gets

The mysterious augmented-reality startup has released a video demonstrating its technology with zero special effects or compositing, it claims.

The sun's glow seems to reflect off the table below. Video screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

If its latest video is anything to go by, Magic Leap's technology is going to be a very big deal in the augmented reality arena, placing interactive digital objects in the real world. The hardware is yet to be revealed (but it'll presumably use a headset). This video, and previous footage, takes place entirely from the wearer's point-of-view.

The mysterious Google-backed startup released a video in March that showcased an augmented-reality video game that involved shooting virtual robots that appeared in the wearer's real-world environment, as opposed to virtual-reality that takes place in a fully digital environment. At the time, the seamlessness of the video led to speculation that it was just a concept, or had been doctored in some way.

This latest video, shown at the WSJ.D Live technology conference at Laguna Beach this afternoon, apparently shows different applications for the technology, accompanied by the claim "Shot directly through Magic Leap technology on 10/14/15, without the use of special effects or compositing."

The demo shows two different digital objects. The first is a small robot, lurking beneath a desk, disappearing behind the leg of the desk when the wearer moves. This indicates that the technology includes some sort of 3D spatial mapping.

The second is a model of the solar system, suspended in the air, the planets gently orbiting the sun. The wearer moves around the solar system, viewing from multiple angles, while the solar system remains fixed in place, viewable in full 3D. Light also seems to reflect off the table beneath it.

Little is known about Magic Leap, but it has some impressive weight behind it. This time last year, Google led a team of investors including Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment and Kleiner Perkins to complete a $542 million round of series b funding. Richard Taylor, founder of special effects company Weta Workshop, and science-fiction author Neal Stephenson are also attached to the project.

It also has some stiff competition. Microsoft is currently developing its own augmented-reality headset, the HoloLens, the developers' edition of which is scheduled to start shipping in the first quarter of 2016.