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The Three Words That Will Make Magic Leap and Products Like it

Brian Merchant from Gizmodo gave factually poignant coverage of Leap Con. This resulted in a eureka moment which defined what Magic Leap and products like it are about, what they deliver, and what their futures are through three critical words.

Earlier this week I read this article entitled “The Magic Leap Con” by Brian Merchant on Gizmodo, and I have to say – not only do I agree with many of the sentiments listed in it, I found myself having a Eureka moment on what Magic Leap is really about and the core benefit that can be summarized in three simple words.

The article is about Brian Merchant’s experience at Leap Con, Magic Leap’s first developers conference held earlier this month.  He describes an event where Magic Leap is looking to make a big hoopla about their augmented reality goggles, but can’t seem to express what their killer app is.  The content seems to be all over the place, and while the technology mostly works, from what I gather, he didn’t walk away with anything that made him believe there was a real future with this tech or its brand.

Paraphrasing, he speaks of developers throwing themselves into the poorhouse buying the first edition of the Magic Leap Goggles, a CEO who couldn’t identify the killer app for his own product, and rooms filled with content that didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason beyond simply existing.  Even the visit to Leap Con was written as though it was a bizarre mix of Las Vegas promotional glitz mixed with confusion leading to dank bowels of a building.  A party without purpose or vision beyond the existence of something cool without understanding why it’s cool – and worse, making lofty comparisons to an impending iPhone-like future without being able to explain why.

What I got out of this is that the author had the impression that the developers - even Magic Leap - don't fully understand their own product.  For whatever reason, they couldn’t convey it, what they would like to do with it, even why it exists or why it's important.  The iPhone comparison seemed useless because nobody could explain why it was comparable to the iPhone.  Even if they tried, the chasm to reality would seem so wide, it would be fantasy.

After absorbing what Merchant said, I came to a realization.  The real and most important innovation has little to nothing to do with pixel count, processing speed, how images are displayed to one’s eyes, portability, content, or even the joy of watching a whale crash in the middle of a gymnasium.  In fact, this innovation is so important and radical, even with Magic Leap’s early stage technology, the potential and vision of what they are striving to achieve would be abundantly clear.  The best part is Magic Leap has already attained this innovation.

I’m not sure that Magic Leap is aware of their own innovation, as I think that acknowledging it would propel them forward in a big way.  Once people read and absorb these critically important three words, the ramifications of Magic Leap and Microsoft Hololens and all the products to come after will be immediately clear.  The link to the iPhone’s success will have been made, the content applications will suddenly seem endless, and everything will be far more real than Magic.  Be it early stage, mid-stage, late stage, or a wild dream from afar – it will be clear and we will never ask what the killer app is again.

Besides, the killer apps are already out there.  We use them in our smartphones when we chase Nintendo characters on the street, or watch our Happy Meals explode when we grab lunch, dissect imaginary molecules wherever we may be, or fix that airplane with helpful overlays and instructions.  It’s been done and it continues to be done.

Here are the three words that will forever define the futures of Magic Leap and all products like it…“Two Free Hands”.  I will say it again: “Two Free Hands”.  Absorb these words and consider what they mean.

Instead of fumbling with a clumsy smartphone, you will wear glasses to look around and see what needs to be seen.  One day, you will walk down the street, and see the directions pointed out for you without awkwardly lifting a tablet to your face.  Your hands will pick up a digitally created ball that you can throw around with your friends.  You will swipe away those boring real estate sales materials and tell your client: “Put these on” – and their eyes will light up fully grasping what you’ve imagined.  Two free hands.

The beauty of this realization of two free hands is we don’t have to fantasize about it or wait for technologies generations away from now.  It’s here today!  We can readily use goggles like this in the enterprise markets with budgets that can afford the technology – and it would be a justifiable business-growing expense.  Who cares if the FOV is X degrees versus Y degrees or if a whale isn’t crashing in the gymnasium just yet – it really doesn't matter.

Just off the top of my head, here are some great things you can do with TWO FREE HANDS:

  • Actively repair a car engine on a production line and know exactly what you’re doing.
  • Work with heavy machinery and get all kinds of job-enhancing data that would otherwise keep your hands and attention from what you should be doing – possibly risking your life in the process (e.g. Who still remembers opening a paper map when they drive?  How crazy is that?).
  • Maybe you’re a soldier or police officer on the field, and pulling out a smartphone to get an update or detail would be a really, really bad idea - maybe it's too dangerous.  TWO FREE HANDS!
  • Imagine teaching a room of students dissecting virtual frogs, and having the difficult choice of picking from the excitedly raised hands to answer questions (because they CAN raise their hands).
  • You're an emergency room worker or a paramedic on-site.  The patient is bleeding profusely and you've got to know what to do and get valuable info.  A smartphone isn't going to cut it with all that blood all over the place.  TWO FREE HANDS! 

Sure, products like Magic Leap will be popularized one day to iPhone proportions because it will be the tool we use to see the world around us in more than one layer at a time.  The iPhone didn’t succeed because it was cool or had fancy pixels; these are bonuses that came with time and technological ability.  It succeeded because it became a valuable tool we couldn’t do without.  No longer are we talking about artificially holding things up to see a novelty; two free hands is a practical view of the world around us and everything we could possibly imagine turned…real?

SOURCE: The Naked Gun
TWO FREE one?  (SOURCE: The Naked Gun)

“Two free hands” is the innovation, the benefit, and the connector of all the applications that have been and ever will be for Magic Leap and products like it.  The medium is the message, and a critical part of Magic Leap’s medium that ultimately defines its potential and applications is two free hands.  It’s simple, it speaks the truth, and it reveals a whole new line of media and content that would otherwise be impossible.  The best part is the benefits are clear right through the spectrum of today and tomorrow.

Now having absorbed the words “two free hands”, does it still make sense to ask “what is the killer app”?  I think not.  If I offered you a tool that would make it possible for you to see the world in a new way, and your hands were completely free to interact or do nothing at all …what could you do with it?  If you’re like me, your head should be exploding right about now at the simplicity of the question and the abundance of the answer.  Case in point, at two opposite ends of the technological progress spectrum, whether a video game is Space Invaders or Fallour 4 VR, they have still found valuable and practical chapters in video game history.

Similar to the iPhone, from this point forward, no one will ever ask what the killer app is again.  Instead, they will tell you what it is – for them – and when it comes to seeing in augmented reality in a quality that satisfies our needs and wants without the burden of our hands, there is an app for everything and everyone.

I will conclude by saying that it’s not the job of future computing practitioners like content and technology developers to tell people what the killer app is.  The goal of future computing is to lay down the groundwork for these dreams and applications to be possible in the first place.  In this case, the enabler we haven’t been able to effectively and affordably do until now is…“two free hands”.


Neil Schneider is the Executive Director of The International Future Computing Association (TIFCA) and Founder of Meant to be Seen.  Founded in 2009, TIFCA is a non-profit network of member companies and institutions that each play a part in what are, and will be, the ultimate tools and experiences that impact our daily lives using computer technology and media. Launched in 2007, Meant to be Seen  is an immersive technology news and community website which is regularly credited as the birthplace of the Oculus Rift and other innovations like the Vireio Perception VR Drivers, FreePIE, MineCRIFT, the Virtuix Omni, and more.

The International Future Computing Association will be holding its next meeting prior to the IMMERSED 2018 conference on November 7, 2018 in Toronto Canada.  Readers are welcome to join TIFCA so they too can participate with the meeting either locally or remotely.

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