Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Magic Leap Just Landed an Astounding Amount of VC Money"

Maybe it's just me but giving a talk in front of an image of myself done as as a Wall Street Journal stipple hedcut would have me looking over my shoulder to see if my expression had changed.

From Wired:
Magic Leap founder, president, and CEO Rony Abovitz at the Wall Street Journal Digital Live conference in Laguna Beach, California on October 20, 2015. It’s official: Magic Leap, the secretive Florida startup developing  a “cinematic reality” device, has raised $793.5 million in new funding in what might be the largest “C” round in Internet history. “This will give us the confidence and the depth to think past our launch and make longterm decisions,” said CEO Rony Abovitz in a February 2 interview.

Alibaba led the round, and executive vice chairman Joe Tsai will take a seat on the company’s board. Tsai joins Google CEO Sundar Pichai; both Google and Qualcomm were early investors who joined the latest round. New investors include Warner Brothers and a slew of financial institutions including Fidelity and J.P, Morgan. The new funding will give Magic Leap a  post-money value of $4.5 billion.

Abovitz says the funding will allow the company to get its product to market faster, and to develop a strategic relationship in the Chinese market. “We are really accelerating everything,” said Abovitz, who added that Magic Leap is moving into supply chain operations and noted some parts of the device are already being built in a factory not far from the company’s headquarters in Dania Beach, FL.  “All of that is being sped up.” He wouldn’t share a date for when Magic Leap’s products would be available to consumers....MORE
Meanwhile the story at the Verge is:

Magic Leap promises 'whirligigs and test machines' soon, complete technological revolution later 
Please read these quotes in the voice of Werner Herzog
After months of silence, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz has promised to complete the human experience with his company's yet-unseen augmented reality technology.

Posted right after the company announced $793.5 million in new investments from Alibaba and several other companies, Abovitz's essay is an ode to the alleged world-changing power of Magic Leap, which he says will transcend the boundaries of a mere gadget. (It's variously compared to a vintage Fender Stratocaster, warm chocolate chip cookies, a great novel, and a kiss.) "Art is everywhere, and can be in everything," he writes. "It is where the feeling of the person (or people) creating the thing for you, is infused into their creation with their spirit, their warmth, and with a depth of feeling and intensity that somehow translates back to you."
"Many whirligigs and test machines and gizmos abound these days."
Since getting $542 million in a Google-led funding round in 2014, Magic Leap has been highly enigmatic about its product, which appears to produce holograms similar to those of Microsoft's HoloLens. But following up on a similar comment in October, Abovitz says that "we are gearing up for our First." His next few paragraphs defy the mundanity of paraphrasing.
Let's not call it a product, although it is a product on many levels; but on some levels it needs to be more. We are setting up supply chain operations, manufacturing — many whirligigs and test machines and gizmos abound these days. Engineers move about our spaces with a sense of urgency. Intense debates about every form of science and art you can imagine float about. Plans have been made. Program and production managers track progress. Coders are coding. Operational and financial systems are being upgraded so that we can scale and deliver at the required volumes. Our First thing will not be everything. But it will be a big step in a whole new direction.
In my mind what we are really doing will transcend what can be contained in a physical product, the thing with atoms and such. What we will bring to you, the part you will really love and find special, is the part without atoms.
We are building a wonderful, special thing — whose purpose is to gently, and in harmony with you (your physiology, your being), produce a Digital Lightfield — a living river of light sculpture, which can transmit to you the feelings of magic and experience and presence. We call this our Mixed Reality Lightfield. It comes to life by following the rules of the eye and the brain, by being gentle, and by working with us, not against us. By following as closely as possible the rules of nature and biology, we can deliver what is truly next.
According to Abovitz, Magic Leap is "computing that makes us smarter, that allows us in all ways to have a better and more complete human experience, one of communication and sharing and enjoying." The company has had these ambitions for a long time — an investment pitch from a few years ago said that "the world is our new desktop" and proposed a variety of augmented reality computing systems, including the weirdly charming plant-based email inbox....MORE
Here's Werner Herzog at Intelligence² on  why his films are funnier than Eddie Murphy':