Magic Leap is preparing for a comeback. The once startup darling of the extended reality (XR) space finds itself something of an underdog these days after a series of stumbles surrounding their premier headset led to mass layoffs and a refocusing of the company. In many ways, the commercial failure of the first Magic Leap (fittingly called Magic Leap One) was representative of the larger stumbling blocks that have hindered the XR space since its large-scale emergence in 2016.
As someone who had hands-on experience with the Magic Leap One, I can say it was an impressive headset for its time. However, like many early headsets, it shot for the stars, attempting to replace the desktop and the smartphone all at once. And its marketing did it no favors. Luckily, Magic Leap 2 is poised to be a very different venture.
How Poor Marketing Killed the First Magic Leap
Marketing sets expectations. If I tell you that Xerox or Konica Minolta are about to release the fastest printer in the world, you’re going to expect a quick working machine. Likewise, if I tell you Tyson has created the juiciest chicken on the planet, you’re going to expect a tasty meal. Marketing is about generating excitement while setting expectations.
When it came to Magic Leap (and early XR in general), however, this went out the window. Founder and original CEO Rony Abovitz was a visionary—seeing the potential of an advanced augmented reality (AR) platform like Magic Leap and what it could do for the world (really it was mixed reality, but that’s a branding issue for another blog post). When it came to setting realistic expectations…here is where Abovitz stumbled.
Much of Magic Leap was shrouded in secrecy, adding a real mystique to the project. Whenever Abovitz or any spokesperson from the company addressed it, they promised a device that would change the world. Details were vague and demonstrations almost non-existent. All the interested public routinely heard were stories like “Magic Leap has raised X amount of income for their headset” and “How Magic Leap will change everything.”
Then it was released…and it didn’t change the world. It couldn’t even save consumer interest in XR at the time. Instead, Magic Leap One became like the original HTC Vive or the first Google Glass: all were aimed at enterprise and consumer markets, and none of them saw any real success in the latter area. For those who doubted, Magic Leap was used as proof that XR was overblown and that the technology was still decades away from being anywhere useful.
I maintain that had Magic Leap set more realistic expectations around the Magic Leap One, however, the headset would have been received differently. In addition, it was simply too expensive to be a successful consumer device. A pivot into the enterprise space and a more use-case-driven approach would have done wonders. In other words: Almost exactly what Magic Leap is now doing with its second headset.
Magic Leap 2 and a Focused Enterprise Approach
Unlike Magic Leap One, Magic Leap 2 has a much more measured and focused approach. When the company downsized, it also re-aligned. Again, like HTC and Google before it, Magic Leap realized that the only real profitability to be found in XR devices today lies in the enterprise space. Keypoint Intelligence has already written numerous blogs on how AR (in particular) is being used in working environments, and COVID-19 has only accelerated the need for powerful hybrid remote working solutions—like those that are possible with XR technology.
The reality is that XR has lost its allure with many investors and cannot count on its stature as a cool “sci-fi” gadget to move units. By focusing on real world applications such as remote support, remote collaboration, employee training, knowledge retention, sales support, and even product demonstration—XR solutions like Magic Leap 2 stand a much better chance of reaching the right audience.
The data we’ve gathered shows a workforce that is increasingly hybrid, one where decentralized workflows and remote working solutions are the norm. XR solutions have a place in this space as part of larger digital transformation and digitization initiatives. New CEO Peggy Johnson rightly sets a more reasoned approach—one that doesn’t position the Magic Leap 2 as a world changer but rather as a powerful new tool that, when implemented properly, unlocks new levels of potential in the hybrid workplace.
|The new, lighter, more powerful Magic Leap 2 headset.|
Why Magic Leap 2 Will Find Success
Technology has advanced since 2016. Not only is the Magic Leap 2 a more positioned and logically-approached headset, it’s also just straight up superior to the Magic Leap One. Preliminary insights into the device’s specs have shown a headset that is lighter (more comfortable), smaller, and has a larger field of view (FOV)—meaning users can see more of the augmented data readouts without having to move their heads constantly.
It is also very likely that Magic Leap 2 has moved away from the cumbersome remote interface that was bundled with the first headset to embrace more versatile control options, allowing users to adapt the solution more easily without having to restructure their workflows around one control input.
My biggest reason for optimism, however, remains the market opportunity. The world is not what it was five years ago. Stronger XR technologies, such as the Magic Leap 2, have numerous areas in which to excel. The launch window (early 2022) is also fortuitous, as it means Magic Leap 2 will have a head-start over the currently unannounced (but inevitable) Hololens 2 successor, as well as whatever products Google and Apple are currently working on. With Johnson’s clear-minded marketing and vision behind, there is no reason to think that history will repeat itself with the Magic Leap 2.
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