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Magic Leap’s First Headset Is a ‘Tragic Heap,’ Says Oculus VR Founder

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey reviewed the Magic Leap One mixed reality headset on his personal website on Monday, and he didn’t sugar-coat his opinion. Magic Leap is a “tragic heap,” he said.

Luckey said he chose those words carefully. “I want what is best for VR and all other technologies on the Reality-Virtuality Continuum, Magic Leap included,” he said. “Unfortunately, their current offering is a tragedy in the classical sense, even more so when you consider how their massive funding and carefully crafted hype sucked all the air out of the room in the AR space. It is less of a functional developer kit and more of a flashy hype vehicle that almost nobody can actually use in a meaningful way, and many of their design decisions seem to be driven by that reality. It does not deliver on almost any of the promises that allowed them to monopolize funding in the AR investment community.”

The Magic Leap One launched in early August for $2,295. It’s available in two sizes and it comes with the Lightwear headset, the Lightpack computing pack, a handheld input device, a sizing kit, chargers, and a quick start guide.

So, what’s got Luckey so down about the Magic Leap One? The controller’s tracking is bad, for one.

“There is no other way to put it,” he said. “The controller is slow to respond, drifts all over the place, and becomes essentially unusable near large steel objects — fine if you want to use it in a house made of sticks, bad if you want to work in any kind of industrial environment. Magnetic tracking is hard to pull off in the best of cases, but this is probably the worst implementation I have seen released to the public.”

Meanwhile, he said the much-vaunted Lightwear headset, with its supposed “photonic lightfield chips” are really just the same technology everyone else has used for years, including the last-gen Microsoft HoloLens. But, he admitted other aspects of the headset are good, including the tracking and image quality.

He reserved his highest praise for the Lightpack, which he called “the guts of a tablet computer in an oversized hockey puck that you wear on your belt.”

“This is the best part of the device by far, A+!” he said. “I would have expected Magic Leap to do the fashionable thing and throw all their render hardware and battery power on the headset itself for looks, but some group of sane people appear to have recognized that putting your heaviest components on the most weight sensitive part of your body is a bad idea if you want people to actually wear your product for any period of time — this is a longer topic for another day, but the data shows that you need to be BRUTAL when it comes to reducing HMD weight. This approach also allows them to use much more powerful chips than they could feasibly cram into a head worn device.”

Ultimately, Luckey said Magic Leap needed to blow people away to justify its investment cost, but the product — while reasonably solid — is nowhere close to what the company originally hyped.

“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,” he said. “Consumer AR can’t happen without advancement, and it seems those advancements will be coming from other companies.”

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