Magic Leap 2 is the best AR headset yet, but will a corporate lens save the company?  |  Engadget

Magic Leap 2 is the best AR headset yet, but will a corporate lens save the company? | Engadget

Magic Leap’s glasses were meant to lead us into the age of augmented reality, a world beyond screens where we could interact with digital objects as if they were standing right next to us. Too bad they failed spectacularly. By early 2020, the company had raised nearly $2 billion. But aside from a few flashy demos and some wild art projects, there wasn’t much reason for anyone to buy a $2,295 headset (it would have only sold around 6,000 units). Like Google Glass before it, Magic Leap felt like a false start for AR, a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.

But the company is not yet dead. With a new CEO on board – former Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson – he’s aiming for something much more practical: augmented reality for the enterprise. It may seem like a retread of the HoloLens playbook, which has been focused on business customers for years, but Magic Leap has a chance to give Microsoft some serious competition with its second-generation AR glasses.

Wear Magic Leap 2 glasses

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The $3,299 Magic Leap 2 (ML2), which launched in September, is easier to wear, significantly more powerful, and has a considerably larger (and larger) AR field of view than any headset we’ve seen. previously. It has the unique ability to darken its display, allowing you to block out light and focus more on virtual objects. And it should be easier for developers to work with, thanks to a new Android-based operating system. While it’s still unclear if the company’s new business plan will bear fruit, ML2 remains a significant achievement, especially now that Meta is also stepping into AR-like territory with the Quest. Pro at $1,500.

“It’s been a long struggle,” Kevin Curtis, Magic Leap senior vice president and hardware manager, said in an interview with Engadget. “When we came out of ML1, we learned a huge amount… Not just technically, but also from a market perspective. So that was really used to set the targets for ML2.”

Some of these goals seemed impossible at the time. The company wanted to double the field of view (FOV) – the amount of screen area where you can actually see AR objects – as well as cut the volume of the device in half. These moves would make his sequel headset even more immersive, while too being more comfortable for extended wear. According to Curtis, increasing the field of view from 50 degrees to 70 degrees with the ML1’s projector and eyepiece technology would have required carrying something as large as an open hand. It’s not exactly doable all day.

magic jump 2

magic jump

Magic Leap spent years exploring existing forms of projection, including laser scanning-based systems, uLED arrays, and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), but found them all lacking. Instead, it developed its own custom architecture, which uses LCoS with RGB LED lighting modules and a complex system of concentrators and polarizers to bring images to your eyes. It works with a new eyepiece design to achieve its high 70 degree field of view.

But what does that really mean? The Magic Leap 1 headset featured a 50-degree FOV, which made it look like you were watching augmented reality through the cramped rear window of a car. (That was comparable to HoloLens 2’s 52 degrees of viewing.) With Magic Leap 2, the company achieved a 70-degree field of view by increasing the vertical viewing area, letting you see larger objects without moving your head. head up and down. During my brief demo, I felt more like I was standing in front of an open door.

magic jump 2

magic jump

It’s more like how you see things in real life, according to Curtis, and it goes a long way to convincing you that the AR objects you’re seeing are real. I’ve tried a wide variety of headsets over the years (including the now defunct entry from startup Meta, which was around long before Facebook’s renaming), and the Magic Leap 2 is the first to offer a real sense of presence. Whether I was looking at large medical equipment or a vast 3D model of downtown San Diego, I had to strain to see the edges. It was almost aggressively immersive.

The new projection technology also helped Magic Leap achieve its goal of more than halving the volume of ML2, resulting in a 20% weight reduction (it weighs just 260 grams, or just over half a book). The result is a pair of AR glasses that look more like, well, eyeglasses. While the original helmet looked like a pair of huge ski goggles, the ML2 has flatter lenses and thinner arms, making you look less like a bug-eyed idiot and more like an engineer. or a surgeon preparing for a big project. (It’s no wonder Magic Leap has given healthcare startups a head start with access to its new hardware and software.)

All of this custom development will also help Magic Leap deliver better headsets down the line. The company says its eventual Magic Leap 3 goggles, which don’t yet have a release date, will lose another 50% in volume and offer a wider field of view. The technology can potentially be scaled beyond 80 degrees, allowing you to view a building-sized object unhindered by any AR limitations.

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