Two years into Magic Leap's mysterious development process, reports began emerging that the hardware itself wasn't nearly as capable as advertisements had led folks to believe. Executives brushed off the criticism, and last December, they debuted the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a headset that was far from fashionable, but at least it didn't look like a wire-studded backward fanny pack any longer.
Magic Leap started shipping the One in August, though in limited quantities and only in six cities. This iteration is designed for developers and as a barebones proof-of-concept; it's not ready for the mainstream consumer market just yet.
That said, the Magic Leap One stands up well to other mixed-reality headsets, notably Microsoft's HoloLens, and it even features a slightly larger field of view than that particular device. The goggles and power pack are solid, and the touchpad-enabled, motion-sensing controller performs smoothly.
Magic Leap's strength lies in its potential.
However, there's no avoiding the fact that AR is in its infancy, and the Magic Leap One demonstrates how far that technology has to travel. Even the basics of AR are still up for debate, including what home pages and menus should look like, or how people will interact with the software. The Magic Leap UI relies on screens, a concept that feels ridiculously outdated while wearing a mixed-reality headset. AR is meant to integrate digital tools with your physical environment, so why does this system rely on a format designed for stationary, flat interaction?
Magic Leap's strength lies in its potential. The One is most impressive when it scans your home for the first time, overlaying everything you own in a light blue grid, catching the details in a bundled up blanket or a sleeping dog. When the entire space looks like a holographic room, the untapped power of mixed reality truly sets in -- now, this room can be anything. The possibilities are clear and endless. They're just not here yet.
Magic Leap is working on better software; that's a given. However, that's not the only major issue that developers will have to contend with, when it comes to driving headset adoption. If AR is going to take off in the mainstream consumer market, it has to be a shareable experience. Using the headset at home only emphasizes this point.