There's a saying by Arthur C Clarke, the brilliant futurist and writer, who said that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". And that is so true of this technology, which we think is AMAZING. It looks like something out of Minority Report and it has been dubbed the death of the screen.
So what is it and who's behind it? Well its a startup called Magic Leap, and they're responsible for creating what could be the most realistic augmented reality ever seen. They have received over $542 million in funding which includes backers such as Google and Qualcomm which indicates that these big names think this technology has a future. The actual hardware is some sort of wearable display unit which projects virtual images onto the real world. We say "some sort" because the details haven't been revealed yet and the company has simply described it as using "hardware, software, sensors, core processors and a few things that just need to remain a mystery". To date, the company has only revealed information about the lens which they call the "photonics chip" and have left the headset bit shrouded in mystery. There are many of these products out there already I hear you say, but the main difference between Magic Leap and other augmented reality products is that they have invented proprietary technology which makes the boundary between what is real and what is virtual almost undetectable, and they do this better than any other company.
How does the technology work?
Well a lot of the "how" is secret for now and all the company has revealed to date is that it has invented a system that works like nothing else. What we do know is that the technology behind it is called "Dynamic Digitised Lightfield Signal". This essentially project images directly into the retina so that it is able to deceive the brain into thinking that virtual objects are actually there. The software is pretty awesome too, as it allows light that is created in the virtual world to bounce off objects and create shadows in the real world, further adding to the realism.
The death of the screen?
Well, possibly. The thing is, because the resolution and focus of the images is good and so realistic, no screen is going to compare. Couple this with the fact that you do insane things like scroll through your emails as if there was a real physical wheel there, then you can quite easily see how in the future it could make using a computer much more natural and intuitive. We think the possibilities are endless, you can just imagine the score of your favourite sports game projected in front of you or even have a fully immersive cinema screen in front of you whilst you're on a flight.
There is exciting potential for the cinema too and there are even rumours that Steven Spielberg has partnered with Magic Leap to create a movie adaption of Ready Player One book. Also, according to Pocket Lint, Lucasfilm's ILMxLabs have teamed up with Magic Leap to create a Star Wars clip where C3PO and R2-D2 have been placed into augmented reality.
So there we have it, Magic Leap seems to be leaps ahead of its competition (no pun intended!) in terms of its capabilities and realism. No doubt it will be very expensive when they do release the product but if it does replace every screen that you own, as it has the potential to, then it's definitely a worthy investment. One of the areas I can see Magic Leap having a massive impact in is gaming. Imagine holding virtual objects that transform into weapons and shooting at zombies that fall through the ceiling in your living room! I'll definitely be following Magic Leap and looking out for any new developments. In the meantime though, feast your eyes on these amazing videos which really are indistinguishable from magic.