On October 17 Magic Leap, the much-debated startup that promises to completely revolutionize the Augmented Reality field, confirmed a $502M Series D Round of financing, led by Alibaba Group, bringing its valuation to an astounding $4.5B. Undoubtedly a shocking figure for a hardware company that has never ever shown a single piece of hardware.
Which begs the question: how long before we can all see Magic Leap’s whale?
The answer may well be never. Magic Leap reached the public attention with Round B (2014), amounting to $542M. They then became viral in 2015 after the release of the video below.
The video wasn’t this one, actually – the original has been removed by Magic Leap. It was entitled “Just another day in the office at Magic Leap”, implying the video was a first-person view and an actual demo shooted from the video. The device was supposedly shooting a digital light field directly into the user’s retina to superimpose virtual objects on real-world objects.
But, as we are discovering now, it was just a concept and Weta Workshop, as the company is now forced to confess, was behind the video.
In other words,
In 2016 Magic Leap became viral for the second time after the whale video above started circulating on social media and began spreading like wildfire. Well, not exactly that video -I am not able to find the original video because interestingly, the original video is not present on the YouTube channel of the super secretive, Florida-based company. See a pattern? An actual demo of the final product wasn’t an available option last year – at date, the final iteration of the headset isn’t ready, nor we have a photo of a working prototype. So the company must have thought that a guerrilla marketing campaign was a good idea and – this is my assumption – had someone else release the video. Speculations began. Everything was said and written about the whale video. A little funny note: the main hoax was sustaining the theory of 7D-holograms (what does that even mean?)
But hey, I forgot to mention the funniest part!
According to past versions of its website, the startup evolved from a company named “Magic Leap Studios” which around 2010 was working on a graphic novel
and a feature film series
and in 2011 became a corporation, releasing an augmented reality app at Comic-Con that year.
Now, after years since the launch and many dollars raised, the house of cards starts unfolding. The Information has discovered that the device is subpar and inferior to Microsoft Hololens. The story got so hyped that Reed Albergotti, the journalist behind the scoop, went as far as to make an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) on Reddit, where he says:
Reed Albergotti also gave some insights into the shape and aesthetics of the device:
So basically it was all a lie.
The whale video was a lie (of course).
The “another day in the office” was a lie.
And the hype promoted and inflated by the company was at the very least lacking in foundation.
It will be difficult for the company to regain trust. Vanity Fair goes as far as to wonder if Magic Leap is actually the next Theranos.
Also, now we’re starting to see some competition in the market for the yet-to-be-released Magic Leap One, i.e. the Next Big Thing that Magic Leap is brewing for us.
First and foremost, Microsoft’s $3000 Hololens, the very first augmented reality-enabling smart glasses – and, drum rolls: they work! And they are already available! And Apple’s patented a new pair of “semi-transparent spectacle or glasses” for AR last July.
I don’t know you, but with all these lies and leaks and competition, I just want some popcorn.