When Magic Leap put the brakes on plans to launch a consumer-ready augmented reality headset in April, it laid off hundreds of employees, including key engineers working on AR hardware and experiences. Those employees are a prime target for other tech companies looking to bolster their visual computing chops, with one former senior Magic Leap employee telling Protocol that Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all have been recruiting laid-off Magic Leap staffers.
Among those companies, Apple seems to be the most aggressive about hiring augmented and virtual reality talent. The iPhone maker has been working for some time on its own AR headset, and the CEO of a VR startup recently told Protocol that the company was "ramping up and reaching out to everyone," which is said to include aggressive poaching efforts.
Bloomberg was first to report in April that Magic Leap was laying off around 1,000 employees. Two months in, the actual number of full-timer staffers affected by the cuts is said to be closer to 600. Hiring during COVID-19 is slow and tedious — a process made more complicated by the fact that Magic Leap employees who relocated to the company's headquarters in Florida may now find themselves forced to return to the Bay Area or other tech hubs in order to start at one of the big tech companies.
But even though many are likely still in the middle of the hiring process, some have started to update their LinkedIn profiles. Combined with historic hiring records, this is starting to give us a good idea where Magic Leap's talent is heading — and which companies have been tapping the AR startup's talent pool for some time.
Here's where employees who changed their current employment affiliation on LinkedIn over the past six months have ended up:
Apple's growing interest in former Magic Leap employees becomes even more obvious when compared to a historic record of all the staffers at big tech companies who at some prior point in their career worked for Magic Leap:
Apple's share of ex-Leapers, as Magic Leap employees are called in the company vernacular, clearly increased in recent months as the company is gearing up to release its own AR headset. That's also reflected in the types of roles Apple is hiring for, which in just the past three months included an XR prototyper, a computer vision engineer and an optical systems engineer.
In contrast, some of the recent hires at other companies seem to be less focused on AR and VR. Amazon for instance hired a former Magic Leap product security program manager for its antivirus efforts, and Google hired a Magic Leap site reliability engineer to work on the Google Cloud team.
One company that stands out as surprisingly absent from the hiring is Snap. The Snapchat maker is reportedly working on its own AR hardware and has experimented with wearables in the past. However, only four of the company's current employees with active LinkedIn profiles list Magic Leap as a previous employer. One reason for this is that the company has staffed up in bulk: Snap hired around two dozen employees of the failed AR hardware startup Daqri late last year, as Protocol was first to report in February.