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What it takes for augmented reality to become our reality

What it takes for augmented reality to become our reality

Metaworld. Metaworld. Metaworld.

Say it three times fast and you will still be embarrassed about the promise of it the digital world is widely promoted where we will apparently be working, hanging out and more.

However, Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, can see this well. She doesn’t even need to wear the company’s high-tech suit.

Mrs. Johnson, who took over the management active startup in 2020, sees the future where we wear augmented reality glasses and view digital information projected into our real world. We will no longer be constantly sucked out of the world to look at the screen in our hand, on the table or on the wall.

(Reminder: While a virtual reality headset blocks the world so you can escape, augmented reality glasses add a layer to it. Remember the windshield display found in many modern cars.)

The Magic Leap 2 headset and computer are expected to arrive later this year.


Magic jump

After 25 years in


Inc. and then six more at Microsoft Corp. as the main concluder of the transactionThe 60-year-old CEO has redirected Magic Leap to focus on corporate and business usage customers because of its emerging technology. The Magic Leap 2 headset, which is expected to be delivered later this year, is designed lighter than its predecessor, with better optics and sound.

The Wall Street Journal spoke to Ms. Johnson about industries that are already making AR a reality, and about what it will take to get glasses that don’t look like a helmet for botanists.

Screens dominate our lives. Why do we need augmented reality glasses?

Right now we are sitting still and interacting through the keyboard with the PC. Augmented reality will change the whole paradigm. You will be able to look at your physical world and interact with the digital content that is in your physical world. The opportunity is to have an overview and be able to have useful tools built into your physical world to help you do your job. This will help you do things in shorter periods of time because these digital signals will help you.

Magic Leap glasses were used in a demonstration of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle during CES in 2019.


ROBIN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

Magic Leap headsets are already in use. Which industries benefit from AR?

We have a number of healthcare companies that use it because it can very accurately and accurately place digital content before their eyes.

For example, we have a company called Brainlab that uses it. They scan an image of your brain, and a 3-D image of your brain is now in front of your eyes, and it can be used as a preoperative planning tool. You can draw the surgical path you want to go through.

Another company called SentiAR creates live interactive 3-D visualizations of patients ’hearts during cardiac ablation procedures that are performed to correct heart rhythm problems. This is usually done with the help of a surgeon who inserts the tube but looks at the 2-D screen. They now have the ability to display your heart – a true living heart – in front of your eyes as they insert the catheter, and it just improves accuracy and navigability.

In addition, we have different production scenarios. We think it will be a real tool for the factory. You can think of it as a computer in front of their eyes. Their hands are still free to do their job, but, for example, a worker can approach a physical machine. Above it can be displayed digital statistics of the machine: running time, downtime, there may be a red flag that says it’s time for maintenance.

“This idea of ​​3-D collaboration with other people who may be in the room or maybe on the continent will be an app that stimulates consumer use,” Ms. Johnson says.


Alfanos Durand for The Wall Street Journal

With Magic Leap 2 you have improved your hardware, but you still need to wear a headset attached to a mini computer on your belt. What are the biggest obstacles on the way to glasses with a refined look?

To some extent we consider this an advantage. We took the heat and weight and put it on your belt or pocket. This allowed us to make the headset only about 250 grams, about 20% lighter than our Magic Leap 1.

Share your thoughts

Can you see the use of augmented reality devices in your daily life in the years to come? Join the conversation below.

One can draw an analogy between AR and mobile phones. When they first appeared, they were large and eventually became smaller. There was a lot of component reduction and silicon integration. So these two things have to happen. It will be several years before we can move on to the points format. But obviously, this will significantly open up the consumer market, and that’s definitely what we’re focusing on.

Speaking of consumers, what would be a deadly device that would make us all want to put such devices on our faces?

Corporate customers were indeed the first mobile phone users. Then I was in the industry and they wanted a longer battery life, smaller size, lighter, all that. So we’ll take all this feedback and use it when we start developing Magic Leap 3.

I think – and especially because we’re coming out of a pandemic and living in a hybrid world – this idea of ​​3-D collaboration with others who may be in the room or perhaps on the continent will be an app that stimulates consumer use. It could be a conversation with your grandmother on the other coast or it could be a conversation with your colleagues. It seems that the revival of meetings is something that will really lead to use in a consumer format.

Detailed view of the Magic Leap 2 headset.


Magic jump

We hear a lot about the promises of the metaverse. What is your view on all this?

There are great options for using virtual reality. Many of them are related to entertainment, training, etc. It’s somewhat limited because when you’re completely closed, you’re limited and you can’t move around so easily.

If you can see your physical world and interact with digital content, that’s a true promise of the metaworld. Technology should just mix. I think the pandemic will push us even harder because we’ve been head down for two years and on these little screens.

This is 2030. What does your job and industry look like?

Maybe I’m not coming to work. Maybe I wear glasses and have appointments. We’ve all kind of been doing it now since the pandemic, but the experience would have been a lot more natural, as if I was actually in a room with people. Technology goes there.

Let’s hope this is the world we’ll be in in 2030, and we’ll be back in the heads-up world and not looking down at the small screen in our hands. Our hands will be free to interact with digital content in our physical world.

The interview is concise and edited.

Write Joanna Stern on joanna.stern@wsj.com

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