Ghostly visions, portals to other worlds — Magic Leap is promising a wild dive into an augmented reality future. But there’s still a long way to go.
A doorway opens in the wall. Beyond it, there’s a gleaming city. A robot flies through, blasting missiles at me. My hand holds a controller, but I see it as a laser blaster. I squeeze the trigger on my controller, sending energy beams at the robot. It collapses against the ottoman. A missile streams by, gleaming and a bit ghostly, and I turn to watch it fly to the opposite wall, where the CNET camera crew, a host of Magic Leap employees, and CEO Rony Abovitz watch me duck and move. The missile passes over them, unnoticed, because only I see it through the headset I’m wearing.
I’m not used to being watched this much when I try new things, but maybe that’s the future. In the kind of augmented reality created by headsets like the one I’m testing, we’re all performers in a split experience — one part real world, one part illusion.
I’m trying the Magic Leap One for the first time, putting the headset through its paces at the company’s Plantation, Florida headquarters just a few weeks before its public debut. For years, the startup has been shrouded: It’s received $2.3 billion in funding from the likes of Google and Alibaba, but the company has released only ato the public, raising questions about the company’s veracity. But now, the hardware has a price and a release date — the $2,295 headset is available now — and Magic Leap is ready to show its creation to at least a few outsiders.