Magic Leap held its first L.E.A.P. Conference in Los Angeles this week, bringing with it the company’s first keynote presentation. From the moment the event began, it was clear that Magic Leap was making a statement about its vision for itself and its products, at the same time pleading its case for developers to join in on the ground floor of something special.
Part of the company's vision is that of diversity. Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz ceded the floor after a few opening comments to CMO Brenda Freeman who said the company intends to "create a system that is culturally relevant."
She added, "We're committed to making significant investments to support the efforts of minority and female creators."
Robin Hunicke, game dev veteran and co-founder of independent game studio Funomena, said, "When platforms like radio and TV and film were first developed, diversity and inclusion were not part of the zeitgeist."
Same goes for the development of the internet, game consoles, and cell phone technology, she said. "We were not yet quite honest with ourselves about how our unconscious biases would shape these new forms of communication, perpetuating stereotypes that alienate people from one another, and sometimes, from themselves."
But, she argued, Magic Leap presents an opportunity to plant fresh ideas that, unlike previous technologies, take into account the technology, the culture, and people altogether from the get-go.
This became clearer during the opening discussion with Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz, chief futurist and Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson, and SVP of creative strategy John Gaeta. The trio explained what makes Magic Leap tech so appealing for game design by outlining the four "North Stars" of the company's philosophy: Sensory Field Computing, Life Stream, Human-centered AI, City-scale Experiences.
"We're committed to making significant investments to support the efforts of minority and female creators."
By combining all four of these points, they said developers can create the most desirable Magic Leap experiences.
Sensory Field Computing, for example, is the way users experience a program or game during their Magic Leap experience. Using haptic feedback, 3D audio, and light fields, Magic Leap tecj allows for a deeper game experience than traditional consoles or PCs.
Life Stream tracks users' emotional state, using biometric feedback and awareness of the user's environment. This opens doors to everything from horror games to dating simulators.
The focus on Human-centered AI popped up a few times throughout the presentation, largely in the form of Mica, an uncannily realistic AI woman presented in mixed reality. Human-centered AI, in Magic Leap's definition, is AI that takes into account human emotion and empathy. The Mica AI that the company demoed was able to communicate with a user across a spectrum of interactions. In theory, Mica will be able to tell if you like the people who are around you, remember a song you mentioned liking, and talk to you like a normal person. Think Siri if she got things right and had a personality.
The final North Star is one that feels like it is destined to become central to using Magic Leap as a actual game platform in the future: City-scale Experiences. In a practical setting, this allows for directions around town while walking or inserting information about buildings or places when you arrive at a location.
But for game design, it raising the specter of a full city of interaction. Imagine a superhero game where you look up and actually see Spider-Man swinging above your head, or a Pokemon Go where you don’t need to follow your phone wherever you go. City-scale takes augmented and mixed reality out of your living room or a lab, and into everyday life.
While these broad concepts are fascinating in principal, they’re useless on their own. Thankfully Magic Leap provided a number of solutions for developers hoping to bring these ideas to their projects.
LuminOS is a homegrown operating system for Magic Leap that utilizes the open source and open standards of W3C. Where the LuminOS impressed us most was the vast number of options it presents developers with for user interaction. Normal humans interact by looking, grabbing, and placing objects. But in the magic leap interface, users can interact via head-pose, eye-gaze, a controller, gestures, voice, mobile apps, or even a keyboard. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for developers looking to expand the boundaries of how players control their games.
Neal Stephenson talking about "Goats"
Down the line, Magic Leap games could allow you to speak to a character, who would be able to tell through the eye-gaze feature that you’re furrowing your brow in response to their reaction. While many of these features are still in the future, the options they present are fascinating and worth exploring today.
Chief futurist and famed author Neil Stephenson came out again for a solo presentation on a project called "Goats" that aims to help teach developers how to map and build creatures within Magic Leap. GLDS 0 and 1 are programs that teach basic mapping, while GLDS 2 and 3 are useful tools to help you learn how to map and build creatures within a AR space.
Magic Leap also announced an independent developer grant program in which Magic Leap with be offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in hardware, funding, and training to new studios and developers who qualify.
Epic Games also made an appearance highlighting a close partnership with Unreal Engine, highlighting a developer-centric strategy as the Magic Leap One works to gain traction in these early days.
The presentation left us wondering about how Magic Leap's tech will impact game design: If a character is to enter a scene, for example, how can you introduce that concept using MR? Why not have a door appear on the wall? Could a scan locate a door and simulate a doorbell ringing behind it? These types of intriguing ideas could be used for revolutionary games in the future.
"We're excited about what we’re going to make, but we’re particularly excited about the crazy shit you’re going to make."
After getting a chance to play with the demos yesterday, and seeing the vision the company has for its future today, Magic Leap has gone from a clever novelty to a honest-to-god competitor for future consoles and computers.
The possibilities on display are endless, and the company’s focus on creating an inclusive space that is open to everyone leaves it with more open doors than it does roadblocks. We’re excited to see what adventures developers take us on using the foundation Magic Leap has built as a roadmap.
Or as Magic Leap Studios SVP Ant Williams put it: "We're excited about what we’re going to make, but we’re particularly excited about the crazy shit you’re going to make."