Mixed-reality startup Magic Leap showcased new content from Hollywood, including from Andy Serkis, Lucasfilm and Weta Workshop, while announcing a grant program for independent content creators during its Wednesday keynote at the first L.E.A.P. developer conference.
Available content is a critical step to rolling out the fledgling Magic Leap mixed-reality headset, but the company declined to reveal just how much funding is being set aside for developers. According Magic Leap, the grant program launches later this year, and select developers could receive financial, engineering and/or marketing support.
The keynote — which ran for three hours — began with Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz discussing the company’s “shared dream” to “build an inclusive new medium” with developers, using its spacial computing technology to mix the real world with computer-generated elements and information. A parade of Magic Leap execs elaborated on various aspects of the company’s strategy and technology roadmap. Guests included representatives from content partners such as Weta Workshop and technology partners such as investor AT&T.
The Magic Leap One Creator Edition — the debut headset from the Florida-headquartered company, which has raised a jaw-dropping $2.44 billion in funding since it was founded in 2011 — was released in August for $2,295 and is targeted at content developers. During the keynote, the company announced that the Magic Leap One rollout would expand nationwide (it began in select markets) and prescription lenses would be available for users.
Magic Leap Two — the next-generation of the still-young technology, aimed at consumers — is targeted for late 2019 or later, but chief marketing officer Brenda Freeman didn’t commit to a time frame.
On the content side, Weta Workshop joined Magic Leap to introduce Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders, an AR shooter game in which evil robots come out of the walls of a living room to stage an invasion. It’s based on original IP from, and created by, Weta Workshop. Magic Leap funded the development of the game, though the amount was not disclosed. It’s now available as a free download for the Magic Leap One.
Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment arm ILMxLAB previewed Star Wars’ Project Porgs. in which an Anthony Daniels-voiced C3PO instructs the participant on how to feed and interact with the bird-like creatures. Porgs is slated for release toward the end of the year.
Andy Serkis, representing his UK-based Imaginarium Studios, shared that he’s working to expand performance capture into MR experiences. Imaginarium is incorporating performance capture into its work on musical The Grinning Man, working with Bristol Old Vic Theatre and Trafalgar Entertainment Group; and the previously announced project featuring an Orc-like character named Grishneck, brought to life by Serkis. Additionally at L.E.A.P., Imaginarium is demonstrating live performance capture applied to an MR-generated CG character, as an example of real-time previsualization for motion picture production.
Air New Zealand also launched Fact or Fantasy? The Fantastical Game of New Zealand, a trivia program created by visual effects house Framestore (Gravity).
AT&T announced plans to launch a DIRECTV NOW beta to Magic Leap One in 2019. Additionally, AT&T plans to offer WarnerMedia content demos in select AT&T stores, including select characters or scenes from Warner Bros. films created for Magic Leap.
While entertainment content was a big part of the keynote, so too was Magic Leap’s vision for spacial computing applications using its technology in many other areas, including communications and health care.
The first-generation headset is being demoed in controlled indoor environments, but Magic Leap’s senior vp, creative strategy John Gaeta (also a VFX Oscar winner for The Matrix), asserted that “we won’t be stuck in rooms very long. We imagine in the coming years we’ll look at larger spaces, especially urban centers.” That would be enabled by 5G capabilities when available.