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Google Invests $522 Million in Virtual Reality Company Magic Leap

First Posted: Oct 26, 2014 10:58 AM EDT
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Google is investing in Magic Leap, a technology and virtual reality company. With this investment, Magic Leap intends to take virtual reality to a level that goes beyond the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook.  

Google, among other investors, on Tuesday shared that they are investing $542 million in Magic Leap. The company has been tight lipped about what they intend to offer with this new evolution in virtual reality. However, there has been some research into the patents of Magic Leap that could shed some light on the long-term product, as well as financing.

The investors that are diving in with Magic Leap are well-known internationally. Besides Google, there is Qualcomm, who design and market telecommunications products and services, Legendary Entertainment, private equity firm KKR, and Vulcan Capital, just to name a few, ZDNet reported.

The  young, Florida-based company was founded in 2011 and developed its technology based on a "biometric" platform called "Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal." Magic Leap also hopes to change the smartphone screens with virtual reality interfaces.

Magic Leap's patent filings describe their technology as having the ability to fool human vision far better than current and existing virtual reality displays like the Oculus Rift, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review. Their technology could make virtual objects appear real.

Magic Leap CEO and founder Rony Abovitz has called their augmented reality as the "most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world," MIT Technology Review reported.

This form of augmented reality can only show flat, 2D images. The headsets like the Oculus Rift trick the brain into perceiving depth by displaying various images to both eyes, but the eyes have to be focused on the flat surface. With a 3D scene, the depth of perception at which your eyes are focused changes as one observes objects at different distances away.

Magic Leap's alternative approach is to utilize the 3D patterns of light rays, called "light fields," and make them as realistic as possible. In other words, create the illusion of virtual reality objects within the real world.

"Magic Leap is going beyond the current perception of mobile computing, augmented reality and virtual reality," Abovitz said according to The New York Times. "We are transcending all three and will revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share and play."

Advanced augmented reality could enhance the video gaming experience. One former executive at a video gaming company says that it could have other applications such as creating real-life magical newspapers from the "Harry Potter" books.

At the moment, Google's finances measure at $60 billion in the bank. It has its Google Ventures, the digital giant's venture capital firm, and Google X, the company's research division which spearheaded its driverless cars, among other projects. This investment, however, is coming from Google Inc. only, The New York Times reported. With Google Inc.'s investment, there is speculation that this is a long-term strategic relationship with Magic Leap.

Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chrome and apps, will join the Magic Leap board. Google's vice president of corporate development, Don Harrison, will also be at the company as an observer. Qualcomm's executive chairman Paul E Jacobs will also be joining Magic Leap as an observer, ZDNet reported.

Magic Leap, a tech start-up, has no products on the market. Its website shares a few videos and images that display rich animations of what people see over the naked eye: seahorses floating above children; a yellow submarine hovering; and an astronaut walking through a train station, The New York Times reported.

"We are looking forward to Magic Leap's next stage of growth, and to seeing how it will shape the future of visual computing," Pichai said.

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