Magic Leap. It’s … something. Variously described as a 3D TV, Augmented Reality device or a Virtual Reality device like Oculus Rift, it’s been confirmed via leaks and patents that it is something much crazier. The description by Snow Crash author and Magic Leap’s Chief Futurist Neal Stephenson is telling, “Magic Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques — some tried and true, others unbelievably advanced — to produce a synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way as light reflected from real objects in your environment”. And how they intend for you interface, experience and ultimately to use it… is quite breathtaking.
Magic Leap is trying to cover the heavily trodden ground of AR/VR with a special emphasis on UX/UI. It’s a universal truth that for a technology to achieve widespread adoption its needs to provide a sensible UX and UI. Upon buying the first 3D Printer, or VR helmet, or Computer, one has to ensure that the user’s brains don’t drain out the ears. Products are oft discarded in the trash before their true value can be recognized, something no doubt Magic Leap wants to avoid.
The images attached here are taken from a patent filed by Magic Leap on January 15, 2015, titled “PLANAR WAVEGUIDE APPARATUS WITH DIFFRACTION ELEMENT(S) AND SYSTEM EMPLOYING SAME“. As you can see in the image above, these are goggles, like Oculus Rift. The patent covers how the user interaction as the critical differentiator. One notable feature is that any object can become a ‘Totem’, carrying an icon that is only noticeable and assignable by the user. The patents suggest how that might play out for the user.
I am particularly enamored by the hand and finger gestures in the last picture. Imagining myself writing this article and finding content for it, the gestures make sense. It’s all about creating a simple set of commands that can be built up to allow for an easy-going user experience and interface. The totems add a visual element to neutral areas that can be assigned using these gestures. Voice commands are mentioned, but don’t seem to play a major role as gesturing and totems might, which I think is more natural (especially when you have a Faceputer).
This describes how shopping can become an interactive experience. The leading image of a monster jumping out of the shelves was based on the hypothetical idea of advertisers or marketing companies attaching interactive animations with products on the shelves.
Media consumption is altered by Magic Leap. I’m sure advertisers would love to have Alex Trebeck or William Shatner come out of the screen and sit down next to you and sell you life insurance. I am not sure I would appreciate it.
Immersive spaces are complete reality, for use in either hospitals (to comfort patients) or even exercise (image says it all).
Gamification of more mundane tasks are a potential application. I am less than enthusiastic about this use, as Gamification is widely adopted where gaming is already popular. However, turning my garbage can in a large 80s arcade console – sign me up!
Assuming technical challenges like battery life, computational power and seamless operation (low-lag, for example) are overcome, the UX and UI have to be natural. It’s interesting that Magic Leap seems to be expending so much effort on how it’s used, although it’s far too early to see whether they can succeed.