Since it was founded in 2011, what Magic Leap has been working on has been shrouded in mystery. An augmented reality company that promises to do no less than change the world, the Florida-based startup and Google cash bucket has given some pretty amazing demonstrations. On Thursday at the Games for Change festival in New York City, Magic Leap’s Graeme Devine shared with an audience of developers and enthusiasts of “serious gaming” his predictions for how augmented reality will be integrated into regular peoples’ private lives — and gave everyone just a bit more insight into what will happen when the media starts integrating with reality.
Devine is the Chief Creative Officer and Senior Vice President of games, apps, and creative experiences at Magic Leap but he prefers to go by another title: Chief Game Wizard. With long groovy hair and a Scottish lilt, Devine started off his keynote address, “A World Without Atoms,” with a refresher of what augmented reality is. An understanding of this is a requisite for comprehending what we’re working with here, so we’ll refresh as well. This is the slide that Devine showed Thursday’s crowd — it’s an excellent definition, he says, because he wrote it. Augmented reality is, in essence, mixed reality.
When he wasn’t telling the crowd that Han shot first and that Super Mario 64 changed the gaming industry, here’s what Devine had to say about our mixed reality future:
It’s Coming Sooner Than You Think:
“I’m here because I help Magic Leap think about the future,” Devine announced at the start of his talk. He quickly added that this future is rapidly approaching. Mixed reality, he claims, will be a fact of life in the next two years. He describes this as a meeting of augmented reality and the meatspace aided by a headset, which will allow people to directly interact with images superimposed over open spaces.
Devine says that the first headset to hit the market will only be the beginning. He sees the world five years from now being 50/50: half mixed reality, half atom. In 10 years, Devine predicts, mixed reality will be absolutely everywhere.
It Won’t Be Like Google Glass::
Devine understands that saying that our entire lives will be changed by mixed reality is a hard thing to swallow (“You can’t just say ‘Hey!’ We don’t need atoms anymore!’”) and says that Magic Leap is working hard to figure out the best ways to build a product that can be accepted culturally. If it creeps us out, or we find it annoying, then it’s not going to work. Devine says what his company is trying to give us is a “Thank God” product — as in, “Thank God I have this Magic Leap gadget because it’s going to make my day easier and more fun.”
“It only will work if it works socially,” says Devine.
He also describes successful products as things that pass the five mile rule: Things that you would go back for at home if you forgot them, but only realized five miles away. Smartphones he says, often pass this rule; Apple Watches do not. Magic Leap wants us to never feel like we should be separated from our augmented reality headsets.
It Will Facilitate Engagement With the World:
“I think about engagement in the world today,” says Devine, “and how messed up it is that people are no longer living in the moment — in the present.” In his keynote, Devine shows a slide of a rock concert, with everyone in the crowd holding up their smartphones to take a photo. This, he thinks, is terrible, “They’re looking at a four inch screen when they’re at a concert.”
With Magic Leap’s device, he says, you’ll be an active participant rather than a passive consumer. Devine doesn’t want a world where we’re all living in our own bubbles — he sees tech as a tool to help us be more a part of the world, rather than an isolated bubble. He also predicts this engagement will benefit how we consume media (there’s no need to pull out your phone and look up the IMDB page of an actor if your headset does it for you) and will even make the most annoying experience more enjoyable — advertising.
“We can say we won’t let advertising happen. . .which will work for about two months,” says Devine. “Or we can think about what advertising will be like in mixed reality.”
He says the better way to combat popup ads and banners you don’t want to see will be working with businesses to make mixed reality experiences that you’ll actually want to see.
“The worst thing we can do is not think about it,” says Devine, “and I hate thinking about advertising.”
It’s Not About Trickery:
“I’m here to plead with you and to show you that this change is happening,” says Devine. “We are going to be changing the world.”
Much of Devine’s keynote went back to the idea that this will all be for the benefit of the people. Of course, there’s no question that Magic Leap isn’t going to make a lot of money doing this — and “change the world” seems all too Silicon Valley — but with the open and no-frills way that Devine presents himself, it’s hard not to believe him.
In 2020 he hopes that “Magic Leap should be thought of as the company who makes flying cars.” But also that: “Magic Leap is a company that is here to make the world a better place and to help humans.”
This won’t be by making the world “crazy and insane” — something that he says they could do with the technology if they weren’t being smart about it. But instead, Magic Leap wants to “improve what is already there” — how we consume information, how we communicate with each other, how we experience games and entertainment. While it’s undeniable that augmented/mixed reality will be a game changer for more serious matters like military training and security, Magic Leap would rather focus on making everything, well, more magical.