Could Magic Leap's Mixed Reality Be The Progenitor To 'Star Trek's' Holodeck? Critics Weigh In

Image Credit: Composite from Magic Leap YouTube screengrab

The reviews are rolling in for one of the most highly anticipated tech products in recent memory: the Magic Leap One. Created by the Florida-based tech startup Magic Leap, the product blends 3D software with specialized goggles that immerse the wearer in a kind of augmented reality referred to as spatial computing or, more commonly, "mixed reality." There has been a lot of hype surrounding the mysterious company and its work over the past couple of years, but does the new product live up to that excitement?

The short answer? Not quite...or at least not yet, according to early reviews from editors that were given the opportunity to travel to Magic Leap's offices in Florida to test the system. The first version of the product is called the Magic Leap One: Creator Edition, which may or may not explain the $2,295 price tag (though as CNET points out, it's still $700 cheaper than the developer edition of the Microsoft HoloLens that was released in 2016). The product has two main components: the Lightwear headset and the Lightpack, a disc-sized clip-on battery and computing pack. The headset is outfitted with cameras, speakers, and photonic chips in the lenses with lightfield technology which creates the 3D projections. Magic Leap would not allow reviewers to show what they saw through the goggles during testing, so they had to do their best to explain what the experience of wearing the headset and its disc-sized clip-on battery and computing pack felt like. 

Adi Robertson of The Verge described the headset as "surprisingly comfortable" and said that she forgot she was wearing the Lightpack because it was so light, though it did emit some heat during the hour-long trial. As for the overall experience of the product, Robertson said that it was "definitely advanced by current mixed-reality standards, but it's not exactly a world of realistic holograms." A limited field of view, inconsistent graphics with some jittering around the edges, unpolished demos, and a few other issues left Robertson to conclude that Magic Leap One isn't much different than tech that has been around for a couple years already, which is odd given the size of the team (1500 people) that the $2 billion company has working on the product.

Other testers, including CNET's Scott Stein, seem to agree with Robertson's review. Stein called the product a "step forward, but not a game changer." Comparing it to other innovative (and hyped) products, Stein says that he enjoyed the experience but was not blown away by it. "I was floored by my first experiences with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive," he wrote, "and, ultimately, that's probably why Magic Leap feels, to me, like a familiar stepping-stone more than a revolution. It's also a headset that seems much more targeted at developers exploring the ever-evolving future of augmented reality than it is anyone else."

Magic Leap One is available now in the United States via the startup's website, so if you have $2,295 to spare and want to give it a go for yourself, feel free. The rest of us will wait until the company does a little more to improve the tech and to bring down the price to a more consumer-friendly range.

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