Magic Leap, the South Florida tech company that's garnered ludicrous amounts of investment from companies such as Google, demoed one of its proprietary games this week at the AT&T store at Brickell City Centre, which is one of only a handful of locations selling the Plantation firm's devices. Though the experience itself is no great "leap" in gaming, the company promises "Iron Man" levels of capability for its tech in the future.
The Magic Leap team at Brickell was showing off Dr. Grordbort's Invaders, a first-person shooter in which players fight evil robots with a pulp sci-fi-style ray gun. After clipping the Magic Leap One console to your belt and putting on the slightly awkward headset, yellow automatons begin to crawl out from the floor and walls of the room, and it's your job to blast holes in them.
What's striking about Dr. Grordbort's (say that five times fast) is how similar it feels to any other virtual-reality shooter available on the Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR. Using the console's control wand as a gun, you point and shoot at enemies who appear through your Magic goggles. This all feels familiar. What's different though, is how Magic Leap uses the environment around you as a stage.
Whereas standard VR sets make you stand in one place as they transport you through an on-rails virtual world, Magic Leap takes your existing environment and places the game on top of it. Think of it like Pokémon Go.
"Unlike Pokémon Go, which just puts the creatures on a surface in front of you and leaves them there, we use spatial computing to allow the game to interact with your environment," says Magic Leap spokesperson Daniel Diez. "If you use our 'Create' experience and place a dinosaur on a table, he knows not to walk off the table. He's aware of the what's around him."
Though the full extent of this spatial computing wasn't on display during the demo, what was available differed from most VR games in that it allowed the player to move around the space freely rather than remain stationary.
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The Magic Leap One console was released in fall 2018 for $2,295, or $96 per month with a financing plan. Since the release of the console, the firm has made a few gaming experiences, including Dr. Grordbort's and a DirecTV app that allows you to watch multiple shows at once on virtual screens that you can move around your house. Still, little is to be seen of the "world-changing" capabilities the company boasts. Diez says that's in the works.
"Think about a repair technician out in the middle of nowhere trying to repair an engine and wearing the device which allows them to highlight the pieces they need to repair," Diez says. "Our CEO loves to compare this idea to a J.A.R.V.I.S. [Iron Man's AI companion]. He would love to see everyone have their own J.A.R.V.I.S."
Though he couldn't discuss details about partnerships, Diez says Magic Leap is in talks with companies to bring these kinds of practical applications to life.
Dr. Grordbort's Invaders (God, what a tongue twister) isn't anything particularly special, but Magic Leap continues to make big promises to its high-profile investors and the public. Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen. In the meantime, Diez says, the company plans to release "meaningful updates" every year, so we might be seeing a new console or a major console update before the end of 2019.