After years of hype, Magic Leaps starts selling $2,300 AR headset

After years of behind-closed-doors demos and over-the-top hype, Magic Leap’s augmented reality glasses took one more step towards reality today. The company has opened up orders for the $2,295 “Creator Edition” of its first headset, the Magic Leap One.

That price includes in-person delivery and setup of the developer-focused hardware, though that delivery is only available in select US cities for the time being—Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle will be covered on day one.

Those in other locations have to reserve a spot and wait for wider availability.

The hand-delivery is in part to determine which of two adjustable sizes for the headset is most appropriate for you—Magic Leap says “you’ll be measured upon delivery to ensure the perfect fit.” Magic Leap also says “limited quantities” are being made available now, and that delivery of current orders will take place within “120 days and typically much sooner.”

Creator Edition purchasers will get access to a Software Developer Kit, sample code, and a license allowing access to Magic Leap’s Creator’s Portal. Early adopters will get access to “preview experiences” including an audio-visual collaboration with the band Sigur Ros, a sandbox-style creation playground, and a “hyper-realistic” robot-invasion game made in collaboration with Weta workshop (coming soon).

Before you faint from sticker shock, consider that Magic Leap One’s Creator Edition is actually a bit cheaper than the $3,000 Hololens developer kits Microsoft launched in early 2016 (or $5,000 for “commercial use”).

It’s hard to say how the Creator Edition price will relate to that of the consumer edition of Magic Leap, which is being promised for “later this year” exclusively in AT&T stores. Back in 2016, Oculus consumers were surprised when the consumer Rift headset launched at $600, following on $300-350 developer kits.

Unlike virtual reality headsets that block out the world around you, Magic Leap’s calls the One a “spatial computing system” that layers virtual images on top of the world around you. But unlike other such augmented reality headsets—which simply put flat translucent displays in front of the user’s eyes—Magic Leap promises new optical technology that “lets in natural light waves together with softly layered synthetic lightfields.”

The visual results of that new technology have generated a lot of hype from the select few that have tried it behind closed doors. Most members of the press and general public, though, have had to be satisfied with touched-up hardware photoshand-wavy proofs of concept, and brief video demonstrations. Still, boosters like Epic’s Tim Sweeney believe augmented reality technology like this will “eventually replace smartphones.”

Tech specs

In addition to the AR glasses themselves, the Magic Leap comes with a connected “Lightpack” that does all the actual computing. That Lightpack sports a multicore Nvidia Parker SOC with two Denver 2.0 cores and four ARM Cortex A57 cores (though only two A57s and one Denver core are available to application developers). A 256-core Vulkan-compatible Nvidia Pascal GPU runs the graphics, along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (95GB of which is user-accessible). A rechargeable lithium-ion battery promises three hours of “continuous use.”

A touch-sensitive “Magic Leap Control” is also included in the box, providing position and orientation tracking as well as a touch-sensitive trackpad, an analog trigger, haptic feedback, and a ring of 12 LED lights. The controller should last 7.5 hours on a single charge, according to Magic Leap. The Magic Leap One also can be controlled with hand gestures sans controller and includes a microphone for what it terms “speech-to-text control.”

The Magic Leap One currently can’t be used with glasses, but the company promises “prescription inserts will soon be available” to clip on to the “Lightwear” headset.

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