At Recode’s Code Media conference on Feb. 13, 2018 (a few hours ago as I write this), they live streamed an interview with Ronny Abovitz, CEO of Magic Leap and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The interview included a prerecorded video with Shaquille O’Neal, but the big star for me at least, what that Shaquille was wearing what looked like a real Magic Leap One headset. I thought I would do some “instant analysis” while the information is fresh.
Blocks About 85% of the Light – More VR than AR
This article is following up on my prior articles related to Magic Leap’s Rolling Stone reveal. In the crops pictures below from the video frames that follow, I have included the time in the video where the frame was captured (gray time code) with my annotations in red.
The first and most obvious things to notice is the darkness of the glasses. There is not even a hint of Shaquille’s eye visible. I was able to find a point (indicated by the arrow) where you can see through the lens to the background. I reversed out the “gamma correction” to convert to a linear value to make an approximate calculation of how much light the glasses transmitted, and it came out to only 15%. These would be like wearing dark sunglasses, the type you would wear on a sunny day. Only this headset is meant to be worn indoors. While the glasses looked dark in the Rolling Stone article reveal, they were doctored.
One must ask is 15% transmissive really “AR” or is it 85% VR. The common number I hear for being “reasonable transparent” is at least 80-85% transparent. You also have to consider that the peripheral vision is almost completely blocked by the large frames around the lens opening.
Confirmation of Diffraction Grating
As I have been writing for over a year, what Magic Leap hypes as “Photonic Chips” are just “diffractive waveguides.” In the Shaquille video, there is clear evidence of diffractive waveguides as he moves his head around, you the exit port diffraction grating catch the light (see left and right).
For reference, I have included below pictures of Vuzix’s Blade and Hololens exhibiting the same light catching and reflecting effect. The coloration of the light is caused by the diffraction grating effect. Both Vuzix and Hololens are transmitting about five (5) times the real world light Magic Leap One. Note how you can see the person’s eyes (Paul Travers’, CEO of Vuzix) through the Vuzix Blade glasses.
Also for comparison, the Lumus waveguides (left), which use a stack of partial mirrors in their waveguides rather than diffractive waveguides. The Lumus waveguides appear to be are even more transparent. They also don’t exhibit this “catching and coloring” of light the way the Magic Leap, Vuzix, and Hololens diffractive waveguides do.
You will also notice how much Lumus, Hololens, and Vuzix allow a person to use their peripheral vision. Additionally, Lumus [correction] and Hololens have enough eye relief that a person can easily wear most normal glasses.
The Audio Was Marketing Hype and Buzzword Salad
The rest of the video made my ears bleed. It was the usual Rony doing his hype and buzzword salad trying to fit in as much hype in as he could without really saying anything. Rony talks about still being able to see the real world, but what he leaves out is that it is going to be about 85% darker. As for having the NBA Commissioner endorse Magic Leap and a testimonial by Shaquille, I would no more go to them to give an opinion on AR glasses as I would have them do open heart surgery.
The one exception to just buzzwords and hype was when Rony talked about the eventual price. Rony said that the eventually he expected to have a range or tiers of products and he said that “low end someday” will be about as expensive as a high-end cell phone (ala, iPhone X). This would seem to suggest that the early enthusiast version is going to be in the $2,000 or perhaps more range.