What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

Magic Leap isn't publicizing much more than a description of its product, but that's been enough for Google and others to invest more than $500M.

What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?
Magic Leap

It's secured more than half a billion dollars in venture funding, promises immersive 3-D experiences somewhere between augmented and virtual reality and has media industry bigwigs singing its praises.

But the thing is — nobody really knows what Magic Leap is up to. The company hasn't shown off so much as a prototype product yet. All that's there for now is a lot of money — and a lot of hype.

Magic Leap's technology is reportedly built around something called a "dynamic digitized lightfield signal,” which can merge realistic computer graphics, like this elephant, with what the user sees in the real world.

Augmented reality, basically. But The New York Times says it's more accurate than most. "Magic Leap is better coordinated with how the human eye and brain process images, making the computer graphics feel, and move, more naturally."

Re/code says it involves a wearable projector that will track the user's eyes.

"We're also told the company intends to use an infrared camera similar to the Microsoft Kinect to create a 3-D understanding of the world around the wearer — so the virtual objects can appear to go both in front of and behind things."

Google led a $542 million financing round for Magic Leap, which included firms such as Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Google's Sundar Pichai now sits on Magic Leap's board, and so does Richard Taylor, the co-founder of Weta Workshop, maybe best known for its work on the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

That kind of cash and executive manpower — and coming from Google's main corporate arm, not its ventures division — led to suggestions Google could have some sort of plan for the future of the Magic Leap as a company.

The concept is also drawing comparisons to other 3-D headsets, most notably Oculus Rift, which was acquired earlier this year by Facebook for its own hefty chunk of change. (Video via Tested)

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz — that's him in the spacesuit at a recent TED Talk — downplays those comparisons, saying he didn't want his product as part of a "Facebook vs. Google" narrative.

Still, whatever Magic Leap is working on has been generating the same sort of effusive praise the Rift has been known to elicit.

One investor in the film industry talked to Fast Company's David Lidsky.

"It's so badass you can't believe it, David. It's one of the few things I've ever experienced in my life where I came out and said, 'This changes everything. This is a marker of the future.'"

And sooner than later, if Abovitz is to be believed. For all its secrecy, Abovitz says Magic Leap will be ready for market in "the near future."