Magic Leap, founded in 2010, has been described as one of the most secretive startups. Before the announcement of Magic Leap One at the end of 2017 only a handful of very high quality videos had been launched alongside incredible promises from marketing. Operose Labs managed to get a pair of Magic Leap One glasses to see for ourselves if the device can live up to the hype and how it fares against the three year old Microsoft HoloLens.
In Operose Labs, we focus on delivering mixed-reality (MR) solutions in industrial settings. In this context, the most important qualities that we look for in glasses are:
1. Is it comfortable to wear and use for long periods?
2. Does stuff stay where it’s supposed to?
3. Is it pretty to look at?
Is it comfortable to wear and use?
We tested the glasses on several people and received back some mixed results. We found that the glasses tend to get very hot quite quickly. This seems weird as the actual processing should happen on the lightpack, a small computer you can wear on your belt. If you have slightly more sensitive eyes, the glasses may dry your eyes a bit due to the heat. However, this was not an issue for majority of the testers.
Regardless, we found it weird that Magic Leap One gets so hot as HoloLens barely gains any temperature with all the processing actually inside the glasses.
Overall, the Magic Leap One definitely feels a lot lighter on your nose compared to HoloLens. We are not entirely sold on the design choice of having only one ring to support the glasses on your head compared to two on HoloLens. While easier to set up, it feels a bit more unstable and the glasses still put a bit of weight on your nose.
One of the new features in Magic Leap One is eye-tracking which is actually quite robust and responsive. We can certainly see some uses for this in market research, entertainment and perhaps even remote assistance.
Magic Leap One also comes with a controller. The glasses are capable of tracking both the rotation of the controller and its position. This enables the controller to be used as a sword or a gun in games or a pointer device in navigating industrial applications.
While the controller is a welcome addition, it is not always feasible to carry both the glasses and the controller around with you. Thankfully, Magic Leap One also recognizes a variety of gestures including fist, pinch or thumbs up.
As for battery life, you can expect up to 3 hours of usage. This may change depending on the applications you use. While we are not particularly happy about this, it is not much worse compared HoloLens and seems to be the industry norm at the moment.
Tracking – Does stuff stay where it’s supposed to?
Reading the blog of Palmer Luckey, we had quite low expectations for environment tracking of Magic Leap One. We were pleasantly surprised that the tracking works better than expected. We mostly didn’t experience much shakiness or the content jumping around.
However, magnetic tracking is used for positioning the controller and it becomes unusable near large metal objects. This may limit the industrial use-cases for Magic Leap One.
Is it pretty to look at?
It sure is. The colors are bright and beautiful and 3D models stay sharp even when you look at them close up. We did see quite a noticeable color shift when the objects seemed to switch between the near and far focus plane, however it didn’t really bother me personally.
Finally, the field of view appears to be slightly bigger than HoloLens, just enough not to be disturbing. It would always be great to have more but this is a nice improvement.
Magic Leap One feels a lot more consumer and entertainment focused compared to HoloLens.
When the device was first released we actually expected much worse due to many negative reviews and blogs we saw. There certainly are issues and perhaps the device is not quite as lightfield as it was marketed (read more from Palmer Luckey-s blog). The main problems we actually had with the device was heat, limitations in tracking and lack of content.
At the same time, there are several things that the device does better compared to other hardware. Most notably visual quality, the controller and eye-tracking. It is unfortunate though that the tracking method Magic Leap chose for its controller limits its usability in industrial environments with lots of metal around. So overall, while the device did not match the hype it got, it still shows promise. Whether the overly pretentious hype will have a negative impact on the industry as a whole remains to be seen.
Look forward to more content on Magic Leap One and other mixed reality topics here on Operose blog.