Magic Leap 2, which is going to be publicly released in Q3 of this year, will include tech that doubles the field of view, an issue that Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson said is “the hardest problem to solve” for the still-nascent AR hardware industry. Now, the company is looking to double the field of view again for a future Magic Leap 3 device. “The engineers think they can do it again,” Johnson told Protocol.
Johnson attributed her company’s success in the space to its choice of display technology. Johnson and newly appointed CTO Julie Larson-Green also touted the company’s decision to switch to an Android operating system as a big step toward an enterprise-ready AR solution.
The Magic Leap 2 headset uses liquid crystal on silicon displays with a 70-degree diagonal field of view. The company specifically increased the vertical field of view, meaning that people wearing the headset won’t have to move their head up and down as much to look at bigger AR objects.
The device has a new dimming feature that allows wearers to darken the background almost entirely for a more VR-like experience. During a demo in San Francisco this week, the company showed off both global dimming, which darkened the entire screen, as well as local dimming, which was used to selectively darken the background behind an AR object.
Magic Leap began making the second-generation headset available to select partners at the end of last year. The company is now working on finalizing software that helps enterprises use the product and is looking to make it more widely available to developers in June. By the end of September, the device should be available via retail enterprise channels for a price “not far above” the $2,295 the company charged for its predecessor, according to Johnson.
The new headset will once again ship with an external compute unit. “At this point, the state of the technology for fully immersive AR is such that we still don't think that you want the weight or the thermal built into the headset,” Johnson said. The company will also make an external battery pack available, which allows frontline workers to use it all day, she said.
Magic Leap 2 will come with an external controller that can be used in addition to hand gestures. However, Magic Leap changed the tracking technology in the controller, replacing magnetic tracking with a combination of LEDs and two inside-out cameras integrated directly into the controller. This should improve the controller’s accuracy in a variety of scenarios, including without line-of-sight from the headset itself.
Another big change for the company was a switch to an AOSP-based version of Android. Magic Leap 1 used a custom OS called Lumin with some Android roots. “We've been enjoying the flexibility of moving to Android because it opens up the developer ecosystem,” Johnson said.
“It was super validating when Meta made the same choice,” Larson-Green added, referring to reports that Meta recently halted efforts to build its own proprietary operating system for its upcoming AR glasses. Switching to Android also means that legacy apps developed for Magic Leap 1 won’t work on the new headset out of the box, but Larson-Green said that porting wouldn’t be too difficult.
Asked about reported challenges at Microsoft’s HoloLens division and their implications for the broader AR market, Johnson acknowledged that making AR hardware is “really, really hard.” However, she argued that Magic Leap’s experience in the space, and its vertically integrated manufacturing, give the company a competitive advantage as it prepares to target enterprise customers in health care, defense and manufacturing. Magic Leap produces optical components in its own factory in South Florida and assembles the headset in Mexico, insulating it from some of the supply chain issues the industry has been struggling with.
Having direct access to the factory also helped the company optimize manufacturing itself, Johnson said. “Our yield rates on the eyepieces are 92%,” she said. Competitors have in the past struggled with high failure rates of optical components, which at times has led to delayed device launches.
Johnson said that although Magic Leap is already working on a next-generation headset, the company wants to learn from how customers will use Magic Leap 2. But don’t expect a smartphone-like release cycle anytime soon: Johnson said that the industry will likely move at a slower pace for the time being. “As the silicon starts to integrate and we are able to take out componentry, that'll drive a faster cadence,” she said.