Earlier this month, Magic Leap released the early edition of its Magic Leap mixed reality headset. With a price of $2295 (~£1785) the headset is currently aimed at those in two categories: developers, and those who are both rich and curious. Falling into the latter category is Oculus Rift co-creator Palmer Luckey, and he is not impressed.
Writing a blog on his experience with the Magic Leap One Creator’s Edition entitled “Magic Leap is a Tragic Heap,” Luckey outlined a number of issues he has with the device including weak tracking and an unimpressive UI.
Luckey no longer works directly on virtual reality, having left Oculus’ adoptive owners Facebook last year, so this isn’t necessarily the bitter digs of a rival. As Luckey himself says at the start of the piece: “I want what is best for VR and all other technologies on the Reality–Virtuality Continuum, Magic Leap included.”
That best, Luckey says, isn’t found with this version of the Magic Leap. Only he doesn’t put it as gently as that: “It is less of a functional developer kit and more of a flashy hype vehicle that almost nobody can actually use in a meaningful way, and many of their design decisions seem to be driven by that reality. It does not deliver on almost any of the promises that allowed them to monopolise funding in the AR investment community.”
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Luckey’s laundry list of issues
So what are Luckey’s main issues? The controllers are the main problem. “Tracking is bad. There is no other way to put it,” he writes. The controller is slow to respond, drifts all over the place, and becomes essentially unusable near large steel objects,” he adds, highlighting a problem with Magic Leap’s choice of magnetic tracking. “Fine if you want to use it in a house made of sticks, bad if you want to work in any kind of industrial environment.”
While Luckey has some kind words for the Lightpack computer (“This is the best part of the device by far, A+!”), things fall down at the UI. “I hope Magic Leap does cool stuff in the future, but the current UI is basically an Android Wear watch menu that floats in front of you,” he writes.
Using a trick with order numbers since closed, Luckey estimates around 3,000 units have been sold – a figure he finds worrying for the future health of the platform, given the number of developers in that list will be smaller. “This was a big problem in the early VR industry, and that was with many tens of thousands of developers among hundreds of thousands of development kits sold,” he writes. “Multiplying the problem by a couple orders of magnitude is going to be rough for ML.”
In conclusion, Luckey writes, the Magic Leap seems to be a missed opportunity. “It is slightly better than HoloLens in some ways, slightly worse in others, and generally a small step past what was state of the art three years ago – this is more HoloLens 1.1 than Consumer AR 1.0. Consumer AR can’t happen without advancement, and it seems those advancements will be coming from other companies.”
Magic Leap did issue a response, albeit not a direct one. Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz posted this series of slightly cryptic tweets, less than an hour after Luckey pressed publish:
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