Magic Leap – Before The Rolling Stone Reveal

For this blog which has been describing Magic Leap’s technology for over a year, the Rolling Stone “Reveal” (R.S. Reveal) of the form factor was a non-event. It was just a way for Magic Leap hype train make some news after being quiet for a while and to claim they did something big (?) in 2017. Still it fooled a lot of people into thinking that it was a big announcement.

It turns out that there was no truly information other than confirming what had already been published as I will show in the pictures below. This article is mostly going to focus on the form factor/looks. In an upcoming article, I plan on talking about some updates about what they may be doing with their technology in an upcoming article.

The shape of the headset is pretty close to a  Sept 19th, 2017 Design Patent (a design patent only covers the esthetic look) D797,735 that has been out and talked about on the internet for a few months. The front of the design patent and the prototype shown in R.S. are very similar right down to the camera sensor locations, the hing point at the temples with a small lump in front of it, the speaker locations, and even a larger rectangular lump on only the user’s right side that is believed to be an electric field sensor associated with the hand controller (more on that later).  The side view show the same upward curve at the back.

The major difference is that where the design patent has what seems to be more of a spring clip arrangement to hold the unit on the person’s head, the prototype goes all the way around the head and adds more padding including at the back of the head. One can imagine that the older design was not securing the headset well and/or they found they needed to add more padding.

It has even been noted by others, in particular Ian Nott on reddit on 15 Oct 2017 , how well this design matched the leaked photo by Business Insider.  The image from Ian Nott’s Reddit Post is show below (Dec. 30, 2017 at 2:10PM – in a subsequent personal message with Ian Nott, he informed me he had taken one of the images from the Design Patent, filled it, and photo-edited it on top of a mannequin head to show how it would look). 

By Ian Nott on Reddit
By Ian Nott on Reddit

I will get into some more things on the headset later, but for a moment, I want to move on to what was already public about the other parts of the prototype.

Show on the  right is what is described as in the Sept. 19, 2017 published design patent D797,749 as a “Mobile Computing Support System” and what Magic Leap now calls the “Lightpack.” Just like the prototype (show below the design drawing), it has both a more rectangular part and a more circular lump for the inside/outside clipping arrangement shown worn with the Magic Leap prototype.

Next we have another Sept. 19, 2017 design patent showing the controller that looks nearly identical to what was revealed about 3 months later in R.S.

So from a form factor perspective, just about everything was already public information for about 3 months and some of it was being discussed on the internet, particularly D797,735 headset.

In fact, things have not changed much in terms of general configuration since the 2013 filing and it’s appendix from 2013 that I discussed a few days ago. Show on the right is another image from the appendix from 2013. The major difference is that the form factor of the headset and computer has gotten much bigger and bulkier as reality sets in. Even the “Y” cable configuration behind the headset dates back at least to 2013 or before.

Unfortunately, the tightly controlled pictures released thus far by Magic Leap and the best form factor matching design patents don’t give a lot of details beyond the outer shape, but other design and utility patents help fill in some more information.

Shown on the left is D796,505 which published on Sept 5, 2017 that while it does not look as much like the prototype it shows more details. In particular it shows the configuration of the waveguide and makes it clear that the projected image is entering/injected from the top and not the side. There is no room or path for the image to come from the sides. You can also see the shape of the waveguides (what Magic Leap hypes as “Photonic Chips”) and what looks to be an eye tracking camera at the bottom. None of this detail was evident in any of the recent Magic Leap images of their prototype either because the outer lenses were too dark and/or they were photo-edited out.

Reddit user steffan_ posted the question about why there was a  big rectangular lump on only the right side of the headset and several users suggested it was part of an electromagnetic tracking system that goes with the controller as shown in Magic Leap’s 2017/0307891 patent application (see right). It is positioned down from the rest of the headset to avoid shielding and noise from the rest of the electronics. Interestingly while shown on the user’s left side in the patent application, the lump moves to the user’s right side in the prototype and design patent. It makes you wonder if this means that the tracking will be better for right-handed users and/or there will have to be right-handed and left-handed models.

The R.S. article still had the official reveal, but it only went to confirm what those that are following Magic Leap already were already pretty sure about. I very firmly believe this will be true for the technology inside as well that this blog has been presenting about Magic Leap since last year and which I will update soon with some newer findings.

Karl Guttag
Karl Guttag
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