Magic Leap One Creator Edition went on sale today in a half-dozen major cities, but it’s not the mixed reality goggles intended for general consumers. That system, the Magic Leap Two, will include support for AT&T’s growing 5G network and will launch with demo stations and a much broader push, company founder and CEO Rony Abovitz told Variety Wednesday.
“We are going to be integrating Magic Leap Two in AT&T’s 5G cell network,” he said. “It is going to much wider. Magic Leap One is really about creators and spacial computing enthusiasts.”
That doesn’t mean that the system launched today is already outdated, Abovitz said the teams will continue to work on that offering software updates over time and that there may even be hardware tweaks as the Magic Leap One, which is version 1.000, evolves to become 1.1 and beyond.
Abovitz declined to say how much Two might sell for or when it might launch.
“Let’s focus on Magic Leap One Creator Edition,” he said. “We just launched it and we’re in early orbit. This is our Alan Shepard, John Glenn moment. Then we’ll talk to you about Gemini.”
Early Wednesday morning, Magic Leap announced it would start selling its Magic Leap One Creator Edition for $2,295 in six major cities through a direct order system on its website.
Abovitz said he spent the night before the launch “not sleeping, chasing my cats and dogs around the house in the middle of the night and making sure I could get up early enough for the launch.”
He made his way into the office early to join a number of employees who had slept there, for a pre-launch party that featured Magic Leap mascot Shaggle, employees decked out in wild customs and was a bit like a rave. The party continued post-launch, as Abovitz made his way to a “mission control” room that featured live tracking of orders and delivery.
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s news and the opening of orders, the company pre-stocked the six cities where the device is being sold. When an order is made, a representative from LiftOff contacts the customer to set up a delivery time. The device is delivered, unboxed and set-up over the course of an hour-long appointment.
“We’re taking a controlled step forward,” Abovitz said. “For the next month, we want to make sure everything is very high quality. This is the launch of our first product and we want to make sure it all goes well.”
Abovitz declined to say how much stock the company had to sell but noted that they’re working to not have much in the way of unsold inventory. To do that the company is using several contract manufacturers both in the United States and abroad.
“We make the fundamental components here and pioneered the engineering assembly, and were overseeing it at a couple of sites,” he said. “We have our internal targets and we want to exceed those.
“It’s important to me to get our systems into the hands of as many creators as possible and to get others time with it.”
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s announcement of pricing and availability, Magic Leap invited a small number of press to its Plantation, Florida headquarters to try out the Magic Leap One Creator Edition.
Those impressions, while not overly negative, all seemed to note that this initial device didn’t seem to live up to the hype that proceeded its release.
The Verge wrote that while the Magic Leap is “one of the best (if not the best) pieces of mixed reality hardware” they’ve seen, it still seems a long way from realizing the promise of the medium.
Wired wrote that their experience wasn’t great at first, hindered by a poor fitting, but that once it was working the experiences were creative and compelling.
While impressed with the driving technology, CNBC wrote that “we’re years away from the Magic Leap that’s ready for the rest of us.”
Abovitz said he had a chance to skim some of those articles in a “bleary-eyed moment” while keeping an eye on the screens packing his mission command center.
“I’m getting little glimpses to some of those stories,” he said, adding he wasn’t really bothered by the impressions. “This is our Apple One, not our iPhone Ten moment. This is the very first step of what we are doing. We’re being heads down and modest about what we’ll do next.”
Several previews of the Magic Leap One Creator Edition also noted the constrained viewing area I first pointed out during my time with the headset late last year, saying that while it is larger than Microsoft’s HoloLens, it’s still a relatively small viewing area. Others also compared Magic Leap favorably to the HoloLens, which sells for $3,000, in other ways. Magic Leap One Creator Edition sells for $2,295. Neither are really designed for the general consumer.
Variety asked Abovitz if he regrets the early hype and over-the-top videos — like the one of a whale breaching in the middle of a school gym — used to promote the product. If it created an unattainable goal.
“It’s probably best not to look back ever,” he said. “As we roll out and people realize what you can build — we have a really powerful CPU and GPU and a good coding team, a good developer can pull off some miracles — I think you are going to see people who deliver on the vision that we put out there.”
Abovitz also pointed out that not all of its early videos showed things that haven’t yet been achieved. Another early video showed off a concept for what became “Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders.”
“We wanted to get people excited,” he said. “But if you look at the Dr. Grordbort’s video, that was a vision of what we expected to deliver. Weta managed to create something that matches that or even exceeds it.”
The idea behind the early marketing, he said, was to free your mind. “I find that when creative people don’t have blocks, they go for it and make it happen,” he said. “We probably will never apologize about putting our vision out there and then driving to meet it.”