Cynicism towards the AR company is being eclipsed by good content and developer outreach
“Thank you for changing my view on Magic Leap,” writes Paradise Decay, a Youtuber who makes VR videos, commenting on the recently uploaded video review of Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders from Adam Savage’s Tested channel. Within just a few days of being posted, the video has already been seen over 25,000 times; and with a subscriber audience of 4 million people, it may be some of the best advertising Magic Leap has gotten yet. The reviewers of Tested, Norman Chan and Jeremy Williams, are generally considered the standard bearers of the AR/VR review scene, and back in August when Magic Leap launched its headset, expectations for what they would make of it were low. “Yeah, I have seen them decimate small VR startups with their reviews. I love their work, and their reviews are fair... but if you think the verge was kind of bad for ML, I can only imagine what will come out of this box :)” wrote user gferreiro on Reddit. “Fair warning, they are not fans of AR,” wrote another.
“Next level stuff”
But the opinions expressed by Norm and Jeremy on Magic Leap’s debut device has been mostly positive since launch, and now with the review of the long-awaited flagship shooter Dr. G the praise is defying expectations. “A taste of the future, even more so than VR,” said Jeremy on their AR/VR show “Projections”. “They’re pushing this technology in a way that we wouldn’t have expected at this level to be possible.” “It’s magical,” Norm chimed in. Magic Leap’s August launch was a minefield of opinion pieces that focused less on what the hardware could do and more on the company’s previous PR efforts, which had led to a whirlwind of disdain and an overbearing sentiment from online pundits that the company was simply a scam. But as the device has made its way into the hands of developers and a steady stream of quality content has been released, the product is starting to speak for itself. “Next level stuff",” as Jeremy puts it.
Dr. Grordbort’s isn’t the only feather in Magic Leap’s cap. It was recently announced that the company’s collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company “Seven Ages of Man” would be featured at Sundance in 2019. Funomena’s app for the system garnered the headline “VR storybook game Luna is even more mesmerizing on Magic Leap’s headset” from the Verge. And the $2300 developer kit even made Popular Science’s Best gadgets of 2018 list. Of course it’s not all positive press for Magic Leap, as many critics continue to question the need for such a device or simply think it’s still too primitive and costly to matter. But Magic Leap is hoping to overcome that hurdle over the next year as it continues to court developers to make content for the platform, awarding what is speculated to be in the tens of millions of dollars to independent developers. And their AT&T partnership is starting to show signs of life as well, with the first in-store pop-up appearing in Michigan this week, featuring a “Fantastic Beasts” demo for the public to come in and try. These are big, bold (and costly) plays needed to show the public that they not only exist, but are here for the big fight gearing up to 2020 when Apple’s fabled AR headset is expected to launch. Omnidirectional moves like this in the AR/VR space have only really been seen by Facebook’s Oculus, and it’s a much needed strategy for a company that was previously shrugged off as being vaporware or a Theranos 2.0. For some, the job of painting Magic Leap as a doomed or failed company has become increasingly difficult. A recent opinion piece from Gizmodo struggled to find a coherent criticism of the company, focusing on a military contract that ultimately went to Microsoft, and casting bewilderment on why so many developers were passionate about the product.
So for now Magic Leap seems to be doing a good job of steering the ship around. As long as it keeps up and accelerates this momentum 2019 could be a great year for them. With the fruits of developers’ labor coming to bear and the prospect of a consumer launch on the distant horizon, the cynicism that dominated the headlines for so long is being eclipsed by positive praise of the hardware and the incredible things you can do with it right now.