Magic Leap CEO on Building Future of 'Spatial Computing'

October 10, 2018

By Alex Heath

Magic Leap is ready to usher in the “spatial computing” revolution.

The incredibly well-funded, Florida-based start-up has come to Los Angeles this week to teach developers and media companies how to develop for its first AR headset, the Magic Leap One.

The company’s first-ever “LeapCon” event, or “Woodstock for Nerds” as CEO Rony Abovitz describes it, features two days of university-style classes and interactive demos centered around Magic Leap’s technology.

“We’re trying to teach people what spatial imagery is,” Abovitz told Cheddar in an exclusive interview at LeapCon on Wednesday. “So if you’re an aspiring creator in your garage or a giant media company, all over the spectrum you can see what’s possible.”

Magic Leap’s first headset is the $2,295 Magic Leap One “Creator Edition,” which was announced in August after years of anticipation and secrecy surrounding its development.

While obviously expensive and geared more towards professionals interested in developing for augmented reality, the headset represents Magic Leap’s first stab at taking AR hardware mainstream. And as of this week, the headset is available to ship across the United States instead of a few select cities.

A core part of Magic Leap’s technology is what Abovitz calls the “Magicverse,” a virtual world that will one day be overlaid on top of the physical world through the eventual prevalence of 5G wireless service. AT&T ($T) invested in Magic Leap a few months ago and will be the exclusive wireless provider for the headset. The carrier announced this week that it would also deploy a 5G network on Magic Leap’s Florida campus to help the technology be tested.

“A city might have a limited economy that’s physical, but digital economies are unlimited ー they amplify,” Abovitz said of the Magicverse. “We’re really excited about, and we think AT&T is basically building the infrastructure for all this to happen.”

Magic Leap has raised more than $2 billion, making it perhaps the most richly-funded startup in the AR space. But big tech companies like Apple ($AAPL), Facebook ($FB), and Microsoft ($MSFT) are all investing heavily in AR as a potential computing platform to replace mobile phones.

“I think we’re the largest scale start-up in what we’re doing, but we’re tiny compared to the people we’re competing against,” said Abovitz. “The amount of capital companies will put into this space dwarf our funding. So we’re a tiny little rebel going up against the biggest companies in the world.”

When asked if he wanted Magic Leap to eventually be a publicly traded company, Abovitz said, “I think that would be great.”

The CEO said that it will take at least a decade before one billion people are using spatial computing in their everyday lives. But he sees millions, or potentially “tens of millions,” of people using the technology everyday in two to five years.

“From my perspective, it seems almost impossible for spatial computing not to become an all-pervasive, all day, every day form,” he said.