Is that an elephant in your
November 20, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

There are dozens of questions surrounding Magic Leap’s supposedly magical, definitely mysterious, and potentially overhyped creation. Will it be an “eyeglasses-like device,” as The Wall Street Journal has reported, or a pair of contact lenses that project images right on our eyeballs? What’s it for? Does it have practical applications? Or is it all about entertainment? And when will it be available?
posted by sammyo (33 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Everything is about marketing. This will wind up being something you can wear so that, when you're in the mall, you can be bombarded with ads that everyone claims you "want" because Big Data.
posted by xingcat at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


The question is, is it self balancing and will it change the way cities are layed out in the future?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2014 [28 favorites]


I'm kinda looking forward to the augmented reality predicted by cyberpunk writers even though it's almost certainly going to be used to beam advertisements into our retinas as we walk down the frozen food aisle at the supermarket. RFID chips on everything and AR is coming we might as well start the dialog about how much spam we are going to tolerate now.

I am still kinda upset that the other elements of a Shadowrun universe haven't shown up yet though. We are rapidly getting corporate dystopia but where the fuck are my dragons, elves and magic?
posted by vuron at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


. . . isn't mobile computing, Oculus-style virtual reality, or even augmented reality. “We are transcending all three, and will revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share and play,” [Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz] said in a statement.
I must be getting old because that's the kind of CEO statement that would have me cramming my wallet back in my pocket. One of the commenters on the article linked to a patent filed by the company which suggests it's a Glass-type device.
posted by yerfatma at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


But Magic Leap promises to do things the average smartphone could never do, including (but hopefully not limited to) making zoo animals appear out of thin air.

My poor Krell. After a million years of shining sanity, they could hardly have understood what power was destroying them.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:09 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


This could be a game changer for people without imaginations or ready access to hallucinatory drugs.
posted by Iridic at 8:10 AM on November 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


For a species wallowing in our own energy-conversion waste products, we sure love ratcheting up the useless junk we spend energy on.
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the day when every one in your meeting has a dead eyed stare, not because they're bored, but because they're all watching porn on their contact lenses.
posted by fungible at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


it's almost certainly going to be used to beam advertisements into our retinas as we walk down the frozen food aisle at the supermarket. RFID chips on everything and AR is coming we might as well start the dialog about how much spam we are going to tolerate now.

It'll be pay to opt out, a one time fee or monthly tied to yer PayPal to block the ads from your vision in certain places, after all if you don't look at the ads it's like your STEALING so you need to pay to not see them - there'll also be an option to mute or obscure strangers, with the right amount of money you could walk down a crowded city street and not see or hear anyone at all.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2014


Well since Google Glass is the new Segway, this must be the new Google Glass.

Sheesh. Took 'em long enough.
posted by Poldo at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's what I want: glasses with facial recognition that can tag a face with a name. My brain has an automatic name-discarding subroutine that I can't shut down. I forget a name approximately 0.5 ms after hearing it. This is a problem you can solve for me, Google.

Also if you could make a tiny elephant appear on people's heads that would be awesome too.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:22 AM on November 20, 2014 [20 favorites]


It'll be pay to opt out

Much like the Kindle is spun as "with special offers" while the less "special" version costs $15 more.
posted by Foosnark at 8:29 AM on November 20, 2014


it's almost certainly going to be used to beam advertisements into our retinas as we walk down the frozen food aisle at the supermarket.

It's the exact opposite of the concept behind They Live - when you put on the glasses, everything becomes an advertisement. Now I'm picturing two techie hipsters in an alley between two software development companies in Silicon Valley doing the "Put these glasses on!" fight, and I'm laughing my ass off.
posted by chambers at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am still kinda upset that the other elements of a Shadowrun universe haven't shown up yet though. We are rapidly getting corporate dystopia but where the fuck are my dragons, elves and magic?

We're not getting Shadowrun, as it's an invocation of something a bit more potent - we're neck deep into William Gibson's future, tracking it as if it were on rails. This is clearly going to be Peter Riviera's hologram projector. Billboards will make you hallucinate by projecting lasers into your eyes at a distance. Neural shunts for meat-puppets are already installed in rats and roaches in the lab, so Molly Millions is just around the corner, too. Armitage? Check it. The Powers that Be in the Valley are going to figure out you don't need a person to send thoughts that others can think over the wire.

Vatgrown assasins and orbital mansions are still a ways off, tho.. but being actively worked on.

(Also, we already have elves. Dragons are just a matter of time before someone engineers a cloned dinosaur with opposable thumbs and a cortex designed for interfacing with a remote human brain. The "hoard" will be the inert human body rather than a pile of gold. They will pay for this entirely with webcasts where they eat someone alive for Youtube hits. Happy future!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:57 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It'll be pay to opt out, a one time fee or monthly tied to yer PayPal to block the ads from your vision in certain places, after all if you don't look at the ads it's like your STEALING so you need to pay to not see them - there'll also be an option to mute or obscure strangers, with the right amount of money you could walk down a crowded city street and not see or hear anyone at all.

This was kind of the premise of one of the stories in Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror series. It was set in a future dystopia where corporate drones had to earn money to turn off the constant stream of ads running on their home's screens.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:05 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dragons are just a matter of time before someone engineers a cloned dinosaur with opposable thumbs and a cortex designed for interfacing with a remote human brain.

Ah yes, the good old Doppling technology of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (Trailer, full MST3k version, full 'normal' version) Weird thing about this film is that if you look at it a certain way, there is a whole lot of things in this that ended up being core concepts of The Matrix.

I guess it's time to open up a bag of Flav-o-Fives, sit back, and watch the future just roll in. I just hope I have enough credits when the time comes so that I can afford more than a baboon or even worse, an anteater.

Also, we're almost at the point where a more primitive form of this kind of immersion is going to come around. Twitch.tv, with all its gaming streams and huge audiences, could one day soon offer the ability to immerse in the streamers experience even more to audiences by supporting devices like Oculus Rift and stream their feed to viewers on their own AV immersion devices.

Between that and the robotic surveillance insects that could very easily turn into assassins, we're going to have a very weird future.
posted by chambers at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm excited for this. People more knowledgeable than myself are looking at patent applications and concluding that they could have good support for multiple focal lengths. The human eye uses lots of visual cues to perceive space and 3D tech usually disappointing because it simulates only some of them. This would fill in a few of the last remaining requirement to peferct 3D simulation.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2014


Maybe the optical stuff is a distraction and it's just Mario games that you can play on phones
posted by oulipian at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a CueCat that looks like a little elephant!
posted by lagomorphius at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Meh, all the fearmongering about advertising seems overblown. There's a pretty fine line defining what the public will accept in terms of intrusive advertising, and in return for what, and in what contexts. Companies sometimes overstep and when they do, the consequences for them are typically pretty negative.

People buy those "special offer" Kindles because $15 seems like a fair price to pay for something that shows ads when you're not using it. (I am honestly a bit surprised that the value to Amazon of the advertising itself is even close to $15. I think they are being optimistic there.)

Back in the 90s there were companies who would 'give' you a 'free' computer and 'free' internet service in exchange for having banner ads at the bottom of the screen all the time. Somebody will probably try that sort of thing again with mobile technology eventually, when the price is right, and then somebody will try it with wearables, and someday with implantables. My guess is that they will all fail just like the 'free computer' thing did. People don't really like advertising that much, the advertising isn't actually that effective at selling stuff, and in the end there's just not a business model there that works for either side.

Also, what's with the constant postulation of shopping malls that will blare ads into your ears/eyes when you walk through them? It seems like such a quaint, 1980s idea of dystopia. I mean, shopping malls? (Please, do step out of the Delorean and let me fill you in on the bad news...) In my area they are trying to convert those things to high-end condos and luxpartments as fast as they can push the permits through, with the remaining ones pushing more and more upmarket, concentrating on the "shopping experience" with valet parking and stuff. I don't think eyeball-searing ads are compatible with the type of people they desperately want to pry away from their Amazon browser windows.

Now, eyeball-searing ads down at the Citizens Commissary where you receive your daily allotment of anti-hunger-riot rations en route to acting as literal or figurative prostitute for the ruling class? That's a dystopia I can believe. Although the thought that most people will have enough discretionary income to make them worth advertising to is, arguably, farfetched...
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is an interesting example of a company not doing PR at all, except through bringing in insane amounts of money, and doing recruitment of semi-big names. And it seems to be back-firing in a way. It's far different from the Segway, in that there seems to be quite a bit more of third-party buy in on this, but it gives everyone exactly the feel of the Segway hype.

Prior to the $500M investment, they convinced several very talented people from Santa Cruz to sign on, and now they're moving to Florida to work on this. These aren't people that I would typically think could be enticed by bundles of cash, and aren't people that I would typically think would want to move from Santa Cruz.

The current tech demo that they're using for recruitment and investors must be absolutely mind blowing.

It's possible that there's some critical unsolvable flaw that will torpedo everything, or more likely it may turn out that augmented reality is something that people don't really want in their entertainment. And if those augmented reality fails, it may turn out that full 3D isn't much of an improvement for video games and movies (current 3D movies aren't full 3D like this technology is). But regardless, there's enough smoke going on that there's at least some sort of incredible demo fire going on.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


These eyeballs not for rent.
posted by spitbull at 11:15 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing about AR and VR is that conceptually they are already 'solved'. HMDs, light field displays, these have all been theorized about and discussed in the literature for decades. Oculus hasn't gotten so far because they came up with some amazingly novel innovation, but in fact the opposite-- the rift is almost embarrassingly straightforward.

AR isn't an area that needs a small number of extremely smart people to come up with some disruptive innovations, it's an area that needs a large number of merely very smart engineers working on boring things like batteries and high resolution displays.

I mean, google glass gets like an hour of battery life with the display on and showing nothing more challenging than text notifications. Magic leap can cram all the gpu-intensive AR bells and whistles they want onto their device, but unless they've also made fundamental advances in battery technology, their glasses are either going to be gigantic or get about twenty minutes of battery life.

I suspect magic leap does have an impressive demo. But with modern technology it isn't hard to put together a really impressive AR demo that works in a controlled lab where you can have the device plugged into power all the time, where you can spend $20,000 on your prototype, where users will forgive the clunky appearance of your prototype because it's a prototype, and where inadequate resolution can easily be mistaken for and forgiven as a software issue.

But the difficulty is that these minor details like battery life, cost, form factor, and resolution are not things that you can easily fix by just hiring some 'code ninjas'.
posted by Pyry at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2014


unless they've also made fundamental advances in battery technology, their glasses are either going to be gigantic or get about twenty minutes of battery life.
The Gizmodo's article point was that the glasses just need to be the endpoint of a fiber optic cable, with presumably the battery and computation being in a distant pack. So the light field projection requires almost nothing on your face, just the end points of some fiber optics, allowing a pocket sized device like a mobile phone to have the electrical and computational power.

The part that would requires something as large as glasses is the light occlusion, probably from LCD in the glasses lenses, the next question of course is how clear the LCD would be when it's not blocking the background image for AR.
posted by Llama-Lime at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2014


Sure, you can move the battery elsewhere. You can have the person carry a whole car battery in a backpack if you want. But now you're sacrificing form factor for battery life. And likewise you have to trade between resolution density, field of view, and form factor. There's a reason that AR goggles tend to end up as bulky nerd glasses with a cable coming out of them.

Also: lightfields. With a lightfield display you have to trade between spacial and angular resolution. (Lightfield cameras have the same tradeoff, hence the Lytro's underwhelming effective resolution). Meaning that you're dividing your resolution in order to be able to do the things like variable focus. So either you have bad pixel density (in terms of pixels/degree fov), bad field of view, or you have some completely insane resolution display with its associated gpu and battery costs.
posted by Pyry at 11:51 AM on November 20, 2014


There may be some efficiencies to be had by using their new projection technology instead of off the shelf technologies. Also projecting small objects rather than for the full field of view significantly lessens the computational burden. But skepticism is definitely warranted until there's a public demonstration.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:00 PM on November 20, 2014


Every day Blank Reg seems to have had his shit together more than anyone else.
posted by mrgroweler at 6:14 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


How much do I pay just to get the tiny elephant?
posted by lollusc at 8:58 PM on November 20, 2014


I guess it's time to open up a bag of Flav-o-Fives

It's Flavo-Fibes ya big tubs!

It was at a lecture in my first year of Computer Science about 18 years ago when I first heard someone describe possible real-world applications of augmented reality and wearable computing. The vast majority of what the lecturer was describing was targeted ads and retail. Given that technology at the time (1997 ish ) was on a hot streak of providing cool, exciting, ad-free things, this really took the wind out of my sails. I mean, yes, obviously all the ad stuff in Bladerunner and William Gibson novels was awesome, at least to look at, but the lecturer was really managing to paint a vivid picture of exactly how intrusive, mundane and annoying it would all be, and was somehow really excited about it.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:13 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, we already have elves.

Elf Poseurs you mean. Sure it's bonus build points at character generation, but the social stigma is just not worth it.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2014


How much do I pay just to get the tiny elephant?

What if all it is is the elephant? A profoundly moving, lifelike tiny elephant that transcends all previous simulated elephants. That's all it does.
posted by anazgnos at 12:10 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess it's time to open up a bag of Flav-o-Fives

It's Flavo-Fibes ya big tubs!


There I was, all ready to debate you on that, but in the midst of my search for evidence, including finding and reading the original short story by John Varley ODatMB is based on, comparing several different quality captures of the scene in question, adjusting audio EQs to better separate the phonetic sounds, zooming in on the bag's label - only a hair's breadth away from an "enhance" moment, comparing the amount of people who used either spelling across the internet and whether they were more of an authority on the matter than the other, and I realized two main things.

1) Flavo-Fibes is probably correct, but my mishearing is not an isolated thing, and understandable considering many who first saw this back in the 90s on VHS recorded from TV, and between the worn analog audio, and the said chips in the actress's mouth at the critical moment. Correct or not, I still think Flav-o-Fives sounds better, as well as tastier.

2) This 'being in the future' thing is sometimes a bit of a shock when I realize that when I was half as old as I am now, everything I just did was pretty much the stuff of science fiction. I know that sounds a bit corny, but still, it's a rather interesting reality check when those little moments of perspective occur, especially in a discussion such as this.
posted by chambers at 6:50 PM on November 21, 2014


I still think Flav-o-Fives sounds better, as well as tastier.

I agree, although it sounds maybe a bit like a 50s ish cereal. I think Flav-o-fibes is supposed to sound a little bit like not entirely appealing dystopia-food, like their "reconst" drink. I think the computechs apparently treating themselves with something that only promises to both have a flavour, and contain some fiber, says a lot about their society.

I may have seen Overdrawn too many times.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:47 AM on November 22, 2014


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