Investment is pouring in, there is huge enthusiasm among digital device users – ‘cinematic reality’ technology from Magic Leap and Microsoft is all the rage this year. It remains to be seen however whether this promising breakthrough technology will take the market by storm.

Magic Leap tops MIT breakthrough technology list

The list of the top ten breakthrough technologies to keep an eye on in 2015 published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Review features Magic Leap right at the top. The advances in augmented reality made by the Dania Beach, Florida-based startup attracted sizeable investment from Google last year. We still do not know exactly what the product will look like, only that it will be a wearable – connected glasses or some type of headset probably – connected to a control unit. However Magic Leap has been confidently touting the quality and potential of its technology, which enables you to see in 3D with the kind of realism that to date you would only find at the cinema. So how does the technology differ from Oculus Rift? Well, Magic Leap does not plunge you into a different world; instead it superimposes 3D elements on the real world. And you can even touch and hear those virtual objects. In fact the Florida startup is not the only company working on 3D holographic systems. L’Atelier has already reported on UK startup Ultrahaptics, which is working on technology that allows you to touch holograms; and on Konica Minolta’s Wearable Communicator designed to facilitate mobile working for business people. Meanwhile Microsoft has been developing Hololens, a technology that promises to radically change habits and turn the market upside down – though, according to the New York Times, image resolution is noticeably lower than that of Magic Leap. However, Microsoft’s Hololens is intended for more than just entertainment, as the demonstration video shows.

Soon more popular than mobile phones ?

“It’s time to bring magic back into the world,” declares the home page of Magic Leap’s website, thus laying its cards on the table and setting its sights high. CEO Rony Abovitz and his team have set out to change the way we do things in much the same way as the smartphone did just a few years ago, and they are hoping that cinematic reality technology will becomes part of our daily lives, overtaking the popularity of mobile phones and tablets. However the company still has not indicated exactly what we will be using the device for. Will we be able to send messages and really work through the device, or will it be used only for gaming and other forms of entertainment? During a discussion on Reddit, Rony Abovitz summed up his ambitions, explaining: “We believe that people may want to use this new form of computing as much, if not more than, their mobile device.” Meanwhile Microsoft has a very similar goal. The Hololens website announces that “the era of holographic computing is here."

Is the market ready for this ?

So does this breakthrough technology herald the end of the screen? Nicolas Nova, a researcher in man-machine interaction (MMI) told L’Atelier recently that this type of change might take a very long time, and warned that it might even not happen at all. “Inertia is very strong when it comes to people’s habits,” he pointed out.  Daniel Ernst, a Virtual Reality specialist who is developing technology for The Shoebox Diorama, an ongoing series of fantastical dioramas for Oculus Rift, told UK newspaper the Guardian: “I think VR is harder [than Augmented Reality] to do in the living room; it’s more vague how it will reach consumers.‟ He argues that there is a hard line between video games and the living room, i.e. he does not think it will be all that easy to move from gaming to real day-to-day tasks. Despite the quality and convenience Magic Leap provides, the technology might yet struggle to break through beyond the gaming experience.

Photos: Magic Leap

By Guillaume Scifo