Is that all?
Magic Leap just announce the “Magic Leap One” in, of all places, a Rolling Stone Article rather than the technical press. Actually “announce” is too strong a word for what Magic Leap did, it is more of a “public admission” or a “teaser” since they revealed so little. Interestingly, most companies wouldn’t announce in late December figuring that the announcement would be overlooked in the middle of the Holiday season and many reporters are on vacation.
Usually, this blog is more about deeper technical analysis of Magic Leap and other display technologies, but I though my readers would be interested in my take on what could be gleaned from the little bit shown. Please understand this is “instant analysis” and subject to change as I learn more and there will likely be updates as more information becomes available.
The more I look at this, the more issues I am finding. So to get this out today, I’m going to give my quick observations and just go into a little detail on just the “see through” aspect today.
The more I look at this, the more I am finding wrong with it. I’m going to go into a bit of detail later, but below are my quick takes:
- The headset is pretty ugly, about the same size as Hololens but it additionally requires a big dual cable, to a larger than expected “Lightpack” computer.
- You can’t see the user’s eyes – I consider this a major problem both in terms of human interaction and image quality (I will discuss more below).
- Vision correction will be supported by ordering prescription lenses. This is a bit of “cheat” to make the optics easier and support a wider FOV than say Hololens. It also means you need to keep your glasses with you if you every want to take this off.
- There is no spec for the field of view (FOV), but from the article, but it is wider than Hololens but not huge like VR glasses, so probably in the 50 degree range give or take 5 degrees, about in line with what was expected. The expectation is that it will have about a 50 degree FOV with roughly 1080p resolution per eye (no information was given on resolution).
- The Lightpack computer is bigger than expected by maybe 2 to 4 times in size and awkward in shape and thickness.
- Nothing about this is truly “portable” in the sense of something you would take with you like your smartphone. What do you do if you have to take it off? The Glasses don’t fold up, you have 4 to 5 feet of a pretty thick cable to take with you plus the big Lightpack that won’t even fit in your pocket. You likely will have to take a backpack size carrying case to hold and protect it.
- Human factors and fit – The Rolling Stone article says they will make two different size units based to support different head sizes. There does not seem to be a lot of adjustment built into the headset. I wonder how much of the population will be served. I don’t see how this will deal with all the different head shapes and/or hair styles.
- I wonder how it will feel under prolong (multiple hours of use), something that may feel find for a short demo can feel horrible after hours of use. Those old enough to have worn eye glasses with thick glass lenses will know what I am talking about. This seems like a lot of gear, even with moving the computer to the Lightpack, with two big cables in the back pulling on it.
- I don’t see any obvious breakaway connectors for the cables between the headset and the Lightpack as both ends appear to have strain reliefs. I can’t see how you can have the headset rapped around your head with 4 to 5 feet of cable going to your pock and not have a breakaway connection for both safety and to protect the expensive headset and Lightpack from being yanked. Maybe there is something, but it is not obviously there nor did I see it mentioned in the R.S. article. I have always thought this would be tricky with two big heavy cables to have something that will breakaway only when necessary and not be a total nuisance .
Frankly, just about everything above was expected based on the information and rumors available. Perhaps the biggest technical surprise is not being able to see the person’s eyes at all and the size of the Lightpack (suggest renaming it to the “Bigpack”). The glasses are a little more hideous looking (to me and others) than expected and similar to the Magic Leap design patents.
What is not said
I’m found of saying, “it is often more interesting what is not said” and in this case, there is a lot that has not been said. The Rolling Stone article and Magic Leap’s Web Page have not given us a lot to go on. All the photos are “stock” photos provided by Magic Leap where they can control the angles of the shot and what is revealed and what they want to hide. There is no price and the availability has been given as sometime in 2018. There are zero specs with respect to resolution, field of view, brightness, and see-through percentage. There are no through the optics photos or videos (maybe a slight exception in next paragraph), and no uncontrolled photography or video of the product in use. We don’t even know if the pictures were taken with the glasses turned-on or whether they were pictures of functional units. Everything is being tightly controlled by Magic Leap.
There was also a 5 second video release yesterday that either was shot in a very dark room or with very dark glasses. But Magic Leap has, as reported by Business Insider, been obtuse as to whether they were “through the optics” or a composite shot. Either way the video is so short, so dark, and devoid of much in the way of content that it is hard to discern much.
Where are the person’s eyes?
My very first reaction and the biggest optical think I can see wrong, is that I can’t seen the user’s eyes. Either Magic Leap has doctored the photos or their optics are heavily scattering and/or blocking the light between the real world and the eyes. For reference compare the Magic Leap Lightwear photo on the left with a similar view taken of Hololens on the right where you can still clearly see the wearer’s eyes. If true (if not true, then the photos are doctored), the serious disruption of the light path to the eyes is a major human factors and image quality problem.
Humans are very sensitive to the look of a another persons eyes, as has been said, “the eyes are the window into a person’s soul. People instinctively pick up clues and when the eye are missing, the person looks strange, more cyborg than human. Plus it makes people wonder what the person is doing and/or hiding.
If the optics are so badly scattering/blocking the light path to the eyes that you can’t see them. This also means the optics must also be having a major effect on the view out of the real world (which Magic Leap is not showing yet). I’m expect that you will see diffraction rainbows (scattering) and a severe darkening of the real world so that it will be like wearing smudgy dark sunglasses when you are indoors.
If Magic Leap was not so hyped up with the $1.9 billion invested so far, this would not merit the attention it is getting. There was next to no information given and if anything headset looks worse than people were expecting. If another startup had shown what was shown today, almost nobody would care.
In the end, I keep coming back to not being able to see the eyes of the user. This to me is fatally flawed if it is true. They are compromising terribly on human factors and the view of the real world.
Anyway, that is my quick take. I’m sure I will be finding other things to discuss and hope to elaborate more later.