Magic Leap’s technology vision ended 2016 battered and bruised – at least on the public relations scale. Rumors of technical challenges and disgruntled former employees had us and others wondering if we should Believe the News or the Hype. The Florida based startup went into damage control mode with CEO Rony Abovitz posting that they were further along than everyone thought.
Now Abovitz has a new post on Magic Leap’s Creativity and Imagination. There’s a hint that something will happen this year:
2017 will be a big year for Magic Leap. Enjoy the ride with us – it will be fun.
But still no release date. Nor hint of a demo. We’ll keep the faith but only based on our prediction of a release in 2017. As we said – their credibility depends on it.
Magic Leap’s technology and vision
You can read the post in full but here’s the section we find most interesting:
I grew up wanting to be an artist and scientist, a musician and engineer. I never saw or cared for the barriers we have in society separating the creative arts from technology – they were, and still are, one and the same for me.
The next few decades will likely see machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) approach, and perhaps surpass, many human intellectual capabilities. Machines may become the dominant centers for intelligence and technical skill on the planet, outpacing people.
This worries me.
Creativity matters. People matter. At Magic Leap, what we are building is designed to bend technology to serve the needs of people. We are emotional beings, not information systems. We create and dream and think. We love, we laugh, we taste, we feel. We experience things that we can not explain.
What we are building is meant to amplify you. The team at Magic Leap is fighting hard each day to make a new computing platform, one that steps closer to making technology feel like it is part of your everyday life, expressing the best of your practical day and opening the door to your creative, inner life. The life of novels and film entering our world.
And we agree: AI will raise serious ethical challenges. While it might seem odd to say, the only way we may keep up with artificial intelligence is through technological enhancement of our emotional and creative lives. That can seem heretical – our emotions seem personal to who we are as embodied beings without technology. But we’ve enhanced the way we move around the world (from the railroads on), how we communicate (from the Phoenicians on), and how we express ourselves (from the earliest cave paintings on). If we are now to enhance our intelligence and surround ourselves with intelligence objects in the Internet of Things, our emotional side may need amplification.
Right or wrong, we’ll soon find out given the rapid pace of AI.
That Magic Leap’s technology can pull this off remains to be seen. Before we even get to that question we need to see a device. At CES 2017, Intel just did another incredible demo of Project Alloy. No matter that the audience used Oculus Rift VR headsets. You cut Intel slack because they’re on stage showing off a rough version of where they’re going.
Magic Leap needs to do the same.
Magic Leap’s communication strategy
Abovitz may check off all the boxes on our fascination with technology – creativity, empowerment, transformation of the world. But then he talks about flying squirrels and rainbow powered unicorns. As Tech Crunch argues, it’s time for a shift in Magic Leap’s communication strategy:
It’s clear that the time has arrived for a shift in the way the company communicates its ambitions.
While the process of miniaturization has advanced more slowly than the company may have expected, where the clearest failures have lied is in the cult of mystery and high expectations that Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz seems to have chased in order to inflate his company and his own premature illusions of grandeur, all of this before the company has anything to back that visionary status up with.
Magic Leap’s technology is a compelling vision. It’s drawn tons of money and a lot of very bright people to its south Florida headquarters and other outposts. And we love that Magic Leap wants to design something “. . . for the dreamer, the artist, and the wide-eyed kid within us all.”
But it will be increasingly difficult to keep the faith without a device. Hopefully, Magic Leap has already booked one of the large demo stages for CES 2018. Otherwise, it’s only words.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.