Google and Others Sink $542 Million Into Mystery Virtual Reality Venture

Search giant Google, along with several other interests, just invested more than half a billion dollars in a mysterious venture called Magic Leap, a company that, based on various reports, is working on technology focused on the virtual reality and augmented reality space.So far, the company has kept a tight lid on what exactly it has to offer in terms of technical specifics but, whatever it is, Google and several other major players believe it’s worth the $542 million in investment dollars announced on Tuesday.

See also: 5 Roadblocks to Virtual Reality Becoming Mainstream

Also included in the investment round are Silicon Valley heavyweight venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, private equity firm KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, film studio Legendary Entertainment and telecom company Qualcomm.

The mega-investment round follows early buzz last week that Google was preparing to sink cash into the company, which calls what is does “cinematic reality,” a term the company has trademarked.

What that term means is still unclear, as the technology hasn’t been publicly demonstrated, but when Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull got a first-hand look at the technology, he reportedly said, “It’s one of the few things I’ve ever experienced in my life where I came out and said, ‘This changes everything. This is a marker of the future.’”

Earlier this year, the company came close to describing its project in a statement on its website, which claimed that it was working to “develop and commercialize what we believe will be the most natural and human-friendly wearable computing interface in the world.”

In the same statement, Richard Taylor, co-founder of the digital effects house Weta Workshop, best known for its works on the Lord of the Rings films, gushed about Magic Leap’s technology.

“What [Magic Leap CEO] Rony [Abovitz] and the Magic Leap team have created is nothing short of remarkable and will forever change the way we interact with images and information,” said Taylor, who is now on Magic Leap’s board of directors. “We are now at the threshold of giving people a dynamic image interface that harmonizes with their senses in a completely natural way…”

In the days leading up to the investment announcement, Abovitz, teased the technology further with a blog post.

“Technology should serve us,” wrote Abovitz. “Computing should match human experience, it should respect human physiology. Computing can feel like everyday magic, and it can feel much more human, much more like our world. Our mission is to deliver on this dream…”

The optimistic language in that post is actually the tame version of Abovitz, who, based on his TEDx talk last year, is a fan of theatrical unveilings. During that event, no actual technology was revealed, but Abovitz, clad in an astronaut suit and flanked by two people in ape costumes (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey), did begin his brief speech with a mention of Magic Leap.

What we know so far, based on reports, is that the company uses “dynamic digitized light field” technology to accomplish the supposedly unique display dynamic, and it may involve glasses of some sort.

Despite the company’s secrecy, all signs point toward Magic Leap being launched as a platform rather than as a distinct commercial product.

“I want Magic Leap to become a creative hub,” wrote Abovitz, “for gamers, game designers, writers, coders, musicians, filmmakers, and artists.”

But until we actually get a look at it, we can only rely on the enthusiasm represented by the new investment, which values the company at around $2 billion, as an indicator that Magic Leap may, indeed, live up to its name.

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Topics: Apps and Software, Augmented Reality, Film, Gadgets, Gaming, Google, investments, Startups, Tech, virtual reality, Wearable Tech

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