Palmer Luckey, Founder of Oculus, “Magic Leap is a Tragic Heap”

I got a “pingback” that another site was linking to my blog article “Magic Leap Fiber Scanning Display (FSD) – “The Big Con” at the “Core.” It turned out that the article, “Magic Leap is a Tragic Heap” was a blog article by Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus.

Palmer’s article is a great quick read and makes some great points very succinctly. In particular, he makes a great summary near the end of his article quoted below”

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.  There is, of course, a chance that Magic Leap is sandbagging us; maybe the real deal is just behind the next curtain!  Past experience suggests otherwise…


Another quote I love from his article is something I have been writing about for over a year (with my bold emphasis added):

The ML1 is a not a “lightfield projector” or display by any broadly accepted definition, and as a Bi-Focal Display, only solves vergence-accommodation conflict in contrived demos that put all UI and environmental elements at one of two focus planes.  Mismatch occurs at all other depths.  In much the same way, a broken clock displays the correct time twice a day.

Even they had six focus planes as Magic Leap was originally hoping to do ti would not work as I wrote about in Magic Leap House of Cards – FSD, Waveguides, and Focus Planes. Having just two planes is little more than a marketing gimmick. Also, the reports of Magic Leap’s vergence-accommodation must be working because they don’t notice it, are likely just the placebo effect. Those that better understand what they are doing have noticed a color shift and jump in the in the focus when the ML1 “hops” from far to near mode. Likely the people that didn’t notice the shift were always in “far mode,” essentially the same as using a Hololens with a single set of waveguides.

It also turns out that Palmer Luckey and I indirectly cooperated in helping iFixit with their teardown of the Magic Leap One. Unbeknownst to me but pointed out in Palmer’s article, Palmer was the “donor” of the Magic Leap One used in the teardown. I was just told at the time I was helping that “someone” had loaned them one to teardown. After reading Palmer’s blog, I then realized that we were both credited at the end of the article as helping iFixit.

Karl Guttag
Karl Guttag
Articles: 247


  1. You have commented in the past that this display technology cannot practically do many planes of depth. The two focal planes that the current device has is testimony to that.

    I suspect that accommodation is not as sensitive to mis-matches, as convergence. But, I have not seen any information saying how many planes are sufficient. Are you aware of any research into this?

    • Focus planes simply don’t work very well. Based on the experts I have talked to and read, even six is not enough. Two is just an excuse to say they tried. A big problem is that you can’t present more than one plane to the eye at a time or you will get a messed up image. With the two focus plane approach, I am reading that you can tell when it jumps between one plane and another (they only present to the eye one plane at a time).

      • Hi Karl, thanks for all your work on this, it’s fascinating!

        RE presenting more than one plane at once – wouldn’t this work ok (or even better than sticking to just one plane) if the distance plane was transparent wherever it appeared to overlap with foreground plane imagery?

        I’m imagining a UI window popping up in front of a background scene. The background scene could be on the distant plane, but with a rectangular black/transparent box where the UI appears to be, and the foreground plane would have just the UI box.

      • Graham,

        You have to consider that you are displaying 3-D information that is continuous. For example, consider the case of looking down the side of a building at about 45 degrees; there is a point you were you have to transition from “near” to “far” and you will then see a discontinuity at that point.

  2. I prefer calling them “Mythical Jump” rather than “Magic Leap” because no one believes in myths, but some do believe in magic and “leap” seems full of hope while jump seems foreboding and reckless.

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