Google-backed augmented reality company Magic Leap's CEO, Rony Abovitz, was supposed to appear at TED this week to talk about his company's mysterious work. At the last minute, though, the company pulled out of this and another appearance for reasons unknown. Those reasons are still unknown, but Magic Leap just released a video that it planned to show at the talk. "This is a game we're playing around the office right now (no robots were harmed in the making of this video)," wrote Magic Leap PR head Andy Fouché. It's the first time the public has gotten much detail at all about an actual Magic Leap project.
"This is a game we're playing around the office right now."
The game in the video bears the branding of Dr. Grordbort, a line of steampunk-esque guns, comics, and other products. Dr. Grordbort was created by an artist at Weta Workshop, which has long been known as a partner of Magic Leap; Weta's branding is on the video as well. The actual game is essentially a robot-shooting augmented reality shooter in which real decorative guns turn into virtual weapons, and virtual enemies are projected into physical space. There are also shots of a Magic Leap interface, full of floating YouTube videos and Gmail icons, as well as a virtual carousel that holds software.
"Playing around the office" implies that this is a real game and possibly real captured footage. But augmented reality products are notoriously difficult to represent, and it's entirely possible this is a mockup, like the impressive Google Glass videos that eventually petered out into a mediocre product. Even so, we know so little about Magic Leap at this point — our last mockups, in its patent application, were pulled from films or concept art — that just getting an example of what it might produce is news.
The prototype system has been kept tightly under wraps, but it's thought to be a kind of retinal projection that evolved out of surgical research over the past several years. It's been called hyper-realistic by people who have seen it, and it was impressive enough to have attracted the likes of visionary sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, so having a simple but surprisingly good-looking game isn't out of the realm of possibility. Microsoft's Hololens, a similar product, has certainly managed some excellent augmented reality demos. But we've seen big promises from VR and AR companies before, so we're still waiting on more news, or even a real demo.