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What is Magic Leap and why might it kill all screens?

Magic Leap is the future of augmented reality. It is everything Minority Report style controllers envisaged and more. It is the death of the screen.

All those things are pretty big statements but they’re all things Magic Leap could represent. With over $540 million in funding and with backers like Google and Qualcomm, even the big names in tech seem to think this is the future.

Magic Leap, essentially, uses a head-worn display to project virtual images on the real world. But unlike other examples, like Microsoft’s HoloLens, this uses a proprietary technology to make the blend between real and virtual almost undetectable.

So how does Magic Leap work and what does it mean for the future?

Magic Leap projects into your eye

The technology that sets Magic Leap apart from other augmented reality competition is pretty secretive. All the company has revealed so far is that it invented the system and it works like nothing else.

The tech is called Dynamic Digitised Lightfield Signal, or Digital Lightfield for short. This, essentially, projects images directly into the eye so it hits the retina. Traditional projectors would fire the light at a surface which bounces it back into the eye. By going directly it is able to “trick” the brain into thinking it’s real.

Describing how it’s done the company say it uses “hardware, software, sensors, core processors, and a few things that just need to remain a mystery.”

The software is so smart the demo videos show that light created in the virtual projects even bounce off real world items and create shadows. The final result is a seamless, real-looking projection.

So far Magic Leap has only shown off the lens part of it’s system of hardware. This it called a Photonics Chip. It won’t commit to what the headset, if that’s what it ends up being, will look or work like.

Magic Leap could kill the screen

By creating a headset that projects directly onto the retina there is no need for screens anymore. Since the resolution and focus of the images are going to be near real, it’s likely that no screen will compare. It also means everything can be adaptive so the display suits the information.

Video examples show menus being scrolled as if they were on a physical wheel. Items, like an email inbox, could be placed on a real-world desk as if it were a real mailbox.

How about checking out the score of a sports game when out and about? Imagine looking up and seeing the scoreboard floating right there as if you were at the game. Or watching a film on a flight, just let the screen take up your field of view and be immersed like being at the cinema.

There are even rumours that Steven Spielberg is working on the movie adaptation of the Ready Player One book with Magic Leap. Imagine a movie experience in total virtual reality? Very exciting potential indeed.

READ: Spielberg to adapt Ready Player One gamer novel, may use Magic Leap tech for AR movie

Magic Leap could re-invent gaming

One of the huge applications for Magic Leap is gaming. Imagine being able to enjoy virtual reality immersion while still moving freely around a room and not banging into things. That’s what augmented reality does as the wearer can still see the world about them.

Microsoft showed off a HoloLens doing exactly that, even using the real-world furniture as part of the gameplay environment.

The fact that the Magic Leap unit appears to recognise hands means holding virtual objects like guns appears to be easy. Although perhaps a real-world prop will help in these instances.

READ: Microsoft HoloLens gets $3,000 price and Project X-Ray mixed reality game revealed

Magic Leap hardware is a mystery

While demo videos have been shown of what Magic Leap can, or could do, there’s no hardware reveal, yet. That lens, it’s calling a Photonics Chip, that was shown just looks like any other to the naked eye. It’s described by the CEO Rony Abovitz as: “A three dimensional wafer like component that has very small structures in it. They manage the flow of photons that ultimately create a digital lightfield signal”.

The headset will have to be mobile and comfortable on the face for it to work effectively while moving. That likely means it won’t be cheap. But if it’s replacing every screen and television in your life maybe that’ll be worth it.

Magic Leap demo videos


Magic Instruments’ digital guitar makes it easy for anyone to jam

Magic Instruments co-founder and CEO Brian Fan knows the pain of learning new instruments. A Juilliard-trained pianist before starting his own company, he spent years trying to learn the guitar, only to put it down after realizing that all his work didn’t help him suck any less. What young, would-be rocker hasn’t been there? His version of rising to the challenge was a little different than you might think, though. Rather than dedicating another chunk of his life to mastering the basics, Fan dedicated a chunk of his life to building a new kind of guitar. He calls his $299 Bluetooth-connected brainchild a “digital rhythm guitar,” and its raison d’etre is to let anyone to feel the thrill of playing music.​

Now, here’s the thing: It isn’t meant to teach you how to play a real guitar. Some aspects of using the rhythm guitar, like strumming its six strings, can unintentionally help with your traditional playing. Still, there’s plenty of hardware out there specifically meant to make you a better guitarist. Instead, this is meant to get you playing music quickly; to more easily experience the unique joy that comes with powering through a Bon Jovi tune in one shot.

The Magic Instruments formula has two parts. The first is a big plastic guitar (available in either black or white) that has a distinctly Les Paul vibe to it. (The company also considered a wooden version, but eventually shelved it.) From a distance, it’s nearly indistinguishable from a regular electric guitar. A quartet of effect-selector knobs sits low on the guitar’s body, just where you’d expect them to be. There’s also a standard 1/4-inch output for running the thing into amplifiers. The differences are only apparent when you get up close. Next to that amp output is a headphone jack and a MIDI-out to make the guitar play nice with Logic Pro or Ableton. There’s a speaker between where the pickups on an electric guitar would be. Most importantly, though, the fretboard is full of buttons.

Holding the fat button on the right side of a fret and strumming the strings plays a root chord, while strumming and holding a different button on that fret allows you to plays a variation of that chord. As you move down the fretboard, you get different root chords and, well, that’s the long and short of it. If you’re feeling fancy, you can do some fingerpicking too; the strings vary in volume depending on how hard you pluck them. Eight AA batteries power the device, and the body itself is only a little lighter than most electric guitars. In other words, this is no chintzy Guitar Hero controller.

The other half of the setup is an app for iOS and Android that contains the equivalent of sheet music: carefully annotated, karaoke-style lyric pages that scroll as you play the right notes. You can buy songs for $0.99 a pop, or shell out $6 a month for unfettered access to Magic Instruments’ entire catalog. To that end, Fan says that music publishers have been surprisingly open to letting Magic Instruments sell their stuff. After all, the overlap between people who buy sheet music and the people who’ll buy digital files to jam with on a plastic guitar is probably close to nil. Marking all that music up for use with the guitar’s companion app is going to take some time, which is partially why the team isn’t planning to ship its first units until early 2017.

As you might expect, Fan’s vision has drawn its share of haters: people who feel the ability to play music is something to be earned through dedication and practice. I’ll be honest, I sort of felt the same way when I first met him. Once upon a time, I got an electric guitar for Christmas, and wouldn’t you know it: wee Velazco was god-awful. I plugged away at it for ages, but even now, I can just barely noodle my way through the classics. I suck at playing guitar because I never put in the time; wouldn’t using MI’s rhythm guitar feel like a cop-out? Personally, I got over that quickly. My strumming was terrible and it took a minute to get used to the kooky fretboard, but after a while I started to feel… cool? The nagging voice saying “you’re not really playing guitar” gave way to “well, you’re playing something,” which eventually led to “you’re really playing this thing!” The experience is, for lack of a better phrase, fun as hell. It’s also obviously not for everyone.

Ultimately, haters will still consider the Magical Instruments guitar as a toy. That’s an awfully reductive way to look at it, but let’s say you agree with them: Does it really matter as long as you feel good playing it? The most rapturous pieces of music in history were crafted by people with an immense grasp of theory and instrumental mechanics, but Fan doesn’t think they should get to have all the fun. With a new Indiegogo campaign and a full release on the horizon, we’ll soon see who was right.


Engadget giveaway: Win an LG G5 courtesy of Spigen!

With spring upon us, you may have cleaned your house and refreshed your wardrobe, but this week you could also win a fresh new smartphone to brighten up the season. Case and accessory maker Spigen has given us two new LG G5 phones and a selection of five cases for two lucky readers this week. LG’s latest handset has a 5.3-inch display, expandable memory and a unique fast-swappable battery feature. To keep this new phone safe, Spigen has included five of its most popular case designs: the Tough Armor, Neo Hybrid, Rugged Armor, Crystal Shell and lastly the Style Armor, which accommodates quick access to the G5’s battery without needing to remove the case. Just head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning. You can also find discount codes below to buy Spigen’s G5 and S7 Edge cases or even opt to write some reviews in exchange for a few freebies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

LG G5 Cases : Just $5 with code
Style Armor – Black (FXNEN5VX), Rose Gold (58HJBUI2)
Neo Hybrid Crystal – Gunmetal (Z8HKZY7N), Satin Silver (QBG8MCNU)
Wallet S – Black (IGEJJX76)

GS7 Edge Cases : Just $5 with code
Rugged Armor – Black – (CGOZ8AHZ)
Ultra Hybrid – Crystal Clear – (2CVC4EFG)

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) LG G5 smartphone (T-mobile, Gold) and a set of LG G5 Spigen cases including: Tough Armor, Neo Hybrid, Rugged Armor, Crystal Shell and Style Armor.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until April 20th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

Magic Leap reveals more about its ‘mixed reality’ tech

Despite billions in funding and board members like Peter Jackson and Sundar Pichai, there’s still a lot of mystery around Magic Leap’s augmented reality (AR) tech. We know that it’s making a self-contained, high-resolution AR headset that seamlessly inserts digital elements into the real world, much like Microsoft’s Hololens. We’ve also seen a patent application and a spectacular gaming concept video. However, the company has revealed a bit more new information about its vision for Magic Leap via a new demo video (below) and a feature article from Wired.

The company made a significant step by doing its first press demo, but Wired didn’t say what the product looked like or how it worked, exactly. There’s still no timeline for release, either, but Magic Leap did give a few more clues about its tech. For one thing, CEO Rony Abovitz prefers to call it “mixed reality” rather than AR. He also says the product differs from AR systems like Microsoft’s Hololens or Meta AR. To create the illusion of depth, those products use beam-splitting tech to reflect light into users’ eyes, which can make it difficult to focus on near and far objects.

Magic Leap, by contrast, uses a “three-dimensional, wafer-like component that has very small structures in it, and they manage the flow of photons that ultimately create a digital light-field signal,” according to Abovitz. That doesn’t clear things up much, but according to its patent, the company has some kind of fiber-optic projection that simulates how light naturally gets into your eyes, helping them focus on far and near objects more naturally. In addition, the system eliminates the “screen door” effect seen in regular VR displays, according to Wired.

The company says the new video was “shot directly through Magic Leap technology,” and contains no special effects or compositing. In it, you can see Minority Report-style notifications and graphics floating in mid-air, a 3D view of Mount Everest and a school of jellyfish swimming through the room. The digital elements look formidably realistic, despite occasional jitter. However, Microsoft’s Hololens also looked great in videos, but the limited field of view and other shortcomings only became clear during extended demos.

Microsoft has started shipping developer kits for Hololens, so it clearly has a big lead on Magic Leap. However, the company says it’s willing to be patient in order to create an engrossing, natural experience. “That to me is the real Magic Leap, like you crossed through the looking glass and you’re on the other side,” says Abovitz. Fantasy aside, the clock is starting to tick on the company at least showing a prototype, so hopefully the PR push is a sign that it’s nearly ready. With Google as a backer, perhaps we’ll hear more news at the I/O conference next month.

Source: Wired


Play with your pets from anywhere with PlayDate’s smart ball

We’ve seen connected food dispensers and health trackers for pets, but we’re still waiting for the first truly great smart pet toy. That’s what PlayDate is aiming for with its smart ball, which resembles Sphero’s devices and LG’s upcoming Rolling Bot. It can be controlled remotely and has an integrated webcam, so you can use it to keep an eye on your furry friends throughout the house, as well as give them something to chase. And of course, it also lets you snap photos and videos of their playtime. PlayDate is launching an Indiegogo campaign today to raise $60,000, and you can snag an early engraved model for $129. That price jumps to $149 for the “Indiegogo special,” which is still less than the proposed $249 retail cost.

As PlayDate CEO Kevin Li tells it, he started experimenting with connected pet gadgets after adopting his dog Hulk several years ago. His first idea was to build a wearable to track Hulk’s activity, but he quickly learned that pet owners faced a bigger issue: the guilt of leaving their beloved animals home alone all day. That set him down the path of building a mobile device that could be controlled from anywhere, and help owners stay in touch with their pets.

If you’ve seen Star Wars’ BB-8 in action (which was built by Sphero), you already have a sense of how PlayDate works. You control it with an iOS or Android app, which also lets you see what’s happening via its stabilized webcam. Even though the ball can move in any direction, patented technology keeps the video looking smooth. You can also speak to your pet through the app, as well as hear their response with the ball’s microphone. And, in a wise move, the app features a “squeek” button, which spits out a high pitched noise to get your pet moving.

PlayDate’s outer shell is made out of shatterproof plastic, so your pets can bash and bite it as much as they like, and it’s removable. That could be a way the company lets you customize the robots down the line. It’s also working on shells made specifically for cats, which feature ribbons.

Compared to LG’s Rolling Bot, Li says the PlayDate is considerably smaller, which means there’s less of a chance your pet will be afraid of it. He also emphasized that the PlayDate is engineered to be durable for pet play — LG’s device isn’t protected from overzealous dog chewing.

While I’ve become increasingly wary of crowdfunding campaigns for gadgets (my wife is still waiting for her Bistro cat feeder), PlayDate also seems like it could be an ideal way for me to play with my cats at work. I’ve only seen a prototype in action at this point, but you can be sure I’ll be checking in with the company over the next few months.

Source: Indiegogo, PlayDate


‘Mafia III’ drops you in a 60s gang war this October

A new Mafia III trailer dropped today, teasing more of the game’s mobster action from the late 1960s. It all takes place in the fictional city of New Bordeaux, a locale loosely inspired by New Orleans, as Vietnam veteran Lincoln Clay returns from war. When his surrogate family, the black mob, are attacked by the Italian mafia, Clay seeks all-out revenge. There are some brutal scenes, however the two-minute teaser is also incredibly stylish in its depiction of the new setting. Much of that can be attributed to Son of a Preacher Man, which plays in the background throughout.

To coincide with the new trailer, publisher 2K has also revealed the game’s release date: October 7th. The fall is always the busiest season for so-called “triple-A” video game releases, however Mafia III shouldn’t have a problem standing out from its competition. After all, when the game hits store shelves, it’ll have been more than six years since Mafia II was released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. After laying dormant for such a long period, there should be plenty of interest in the franchise’s return.

Source: Mafia III


HBO and Discovery make major investment in virtual reality

Virtual reality isn’t just seeing a revival when it comes to gaming, immersive content is taking root in journalism, movies and television as well. In fact, two networks made an investment in a virtual and augmented reality company to help drive future production projects. OTOY, a company that makes cloud-based graphics software covering the capture, rendering and streaming of VR and AR content announced today that both HBO and Discovery are backing it “to create universal publishing platform for TV, movies and original holographic content.” While holograms are mentioned throughout the press release, VR and AR factor heavily into the networks’ plans.

HBO was already familiar with OTOY, as the company is working with Jon Stewart on his upcoming project using its technology. “OTOY has a roadmap for the future of entertainment and technology,” said HBO president Michael Lombardo in the news release. “Their creativity and drive perfectly aligns with HBO’s.” Discovery already offers VR content of its own through Discovery VR, but it says OTOY can lend a hand in taking its virtual and augmented reality experiences “to a whole new level.”

OTOY’s founder and CEO Jules Urbach explains that the company’s goal is to make “holographic and immersive content” accessible options for viewers, publishers and artists. Not only are HBO and Discovery investors, but they’re also content partners, and Urbach says the trio will collaborate “to map out the future of entertainment.” The company has been working on a number of VR solutions, including streams that the viewer can move around in. Jon Stewart’s upcoming short-form content for HBO will likely be the first fruits of the relationship, which will be available via HBO Now when it debuts.

Source: OTOY


Viber to add encryption to its messaging app

Viber announced on Tuesday that it is rolling out end-to-end encryption to its messaging app (vers 6.0) across every one of its platforms — Android, iOS, Mac and PC — and every one of its communications channels. That means every voice and video call, text message, video and photo share, regardless of whether it’s a group chat and private message, will be encrypted. What’s more, Viber is also adding a “hidden chat” feature that hides specific conversations from the homescreen and can only be revealed by entering a four-digit PIN.

“We take our users’ security and privacy very seriously, and it’s critical to us that they feel confident and protected when using Viber,” Michael Shmilov, COO of Viber, said in a statement. “Because of this, we have spent a long time working on this latest update to ensure that our users have the most sophisticated security available and maximum control over their communications. We will continue to make this an ongoing priority as digital communication evolves.”

The FBI’s legal gambit against Apple has not turned out like the feds had hoped. Not only have they failed to strong arm the company into a security compromising precedent, the FBI’s bullying has galvanized the rest of the industry and shown consumers how valuable encryption is against attacks on the 4th Amendment. It’s not just Facebook fully encrypting Whatsapp or Apple locking down iMessages, smaller companies like Viber (obviously), Telegram and Line are all hopping onboard as well — often at the behest of their users.

Source: Business Wire


Netflix CEO Keeping an ‘Open Mind’ About Offline Viewing for Mobile Apps

A long-requested feature could be coming to the iOS and Android versions of Netflix, letting users download TV shows and movies for offline viewing instead of being stranded in areas without Wi-Fi or a cellular signal when wanting to watch the video streaming service. Netflix has been lagging behind its competitors in this regard, with companies like Amazon and YouTube allowing some form of offline viewing to its paying members.

Answering a question from Re/code yesterday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted that the company would consider the possibility for users to download its videos moving forward, without directly confirming it would implement the feature anytime soon. The wording of Hastings’ comment also suggests that if offline viewing ever came, Netflix would angle it as an assistive feature for countries with less reliable internet speeds, rather than a bullet point benefit to its broader subscriber base.

“We should keep an open mind on this. We’ve been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming. But as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it’s something we should keep an open mind about.”

Netflix’s previous stance on offline viewing was a belief that the introduction of such a feature would add too much complexity into a service that prides itself on simplicity of use. Last September, the company’s Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt, said that Netflix believes it’s “not a very compelling proposition” moving forward. Undoubtedly content licenses would be a hurdle for the feature as well, but given the steadily growing amount of Netflix-created original content, users would have plenty of TV shows, movies, and documentaries to choose from if offline viewing ever becomes available.

Tag: Netflix
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Tesla VP Chris Porritt Recently Joined Apple’s ‘Special Projects’ Group

Apple hired former Tesla Motors Vice President of Vehicle Engineering Chris Porritt last year to join its “special projects” group, possibly to spearhead its much-rumored electric vehicle project, according to Electrek.

Chris Porritt and the Aston Martin One-77 supercar
Porritt brings decades of experience in the European automotive industry with him to Apple, having worked on vehicle dynamics as a principal engineer at Land Rover between 1987 and 1997 before serving as chief engineer at Aston Martin until 2013.

During his tenure at Aston Martin, Porritt played a significant role in designing the One-77 supercar, while he also led teams that worked on the similarly luxurious DB9 and V12 Vantage. He left the automaker to join Tesla three years ago.

At Tesla, Porritt reportedly worked on the Model S and Model X, in addition to the chassis of the recently-announced Model 3.

Porritt’s role at Apple is unsurprisingly secretive, having been assigned the vague title of “Special Projects Group PD Administrator,” but his automotive expertise suggests that he could have a senior role within the “Project Titan” team that is widely rumored to be working on the so-called “Apple Car” project.

Following the recent news that alleged “Apple Car” project lead Steve Zadesky would be leaving Apple for personal reasons, Porritt’s seniority would make him a strong candidate for a leadership role within the company’s secretive automotive team. At least a few Apple engineers are already reporting to him internally, according to the report.

We can confirm that some senior Apple engineers will be reporting directly to Porritt, including Product Development Engineering Director, Albert Golko, who until last year was working for the iPhone group and now on unspecified products. Emery Sanford is also said to report directly to Porritt now. Sanford is a prolific engineer named in dozens of Apple’s patents and who often worked directly with Zadesky, the exec believed to have been in charge of Project Titan until earlier this year.

It is publicly known that Apple and Tesla have been fighting over top employees, and recruiting talent away from each other’s respective companies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk once called Apple the “Tesla Graveyard” where fired Tesla employees go to work. Musk has also referred to the “Apple Car” as an “open secret.”

GM Tesla
Apple’s purported automotive team is believed to include hundreds of employees that previously worked at A123 Systems, Autoliv, Concept Systems, Ford, General Motors, General Dynamics, Land Rover, Tesla Motors, Texas Instruments, and elsewhere. Apple Car R&D could be finalized in time for a 2019 or 2020 launch.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
Tag: Tesla
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