The half-decade of augmented reality stagnation – TechCrunch

Hello readers and welcome to Review of the week!

Last week, I talked about the future of this newsletter and what’s coming next. In short, in the weeks to come, I will finish my time writing the Review of the week newsletter as I start sending out a brand new newsletter for TechCrunch called Chain reaction focused exclusively on crypto, web3 and the metaverse – with all its ridiculousness and intrigue.

The most exciting part is that this weekly newsletter will be accompanied by a weekly podcast, which I will share more details about soon.

i am currently sending Review of the week to a few hundred thousand subscribers (and you will all continue to receive it as I pass the baton to my colleague Greg Kumparak who will take it over.) That said, Chain reaction starts at zero, so it would mean a lot if you pre-subscribed to the newsletter for it to land in your inbox on day one. You can do it on the TechCrunch newsletter page. Please!

Now that I don’t have to crawl anymore, you still have me for a few more weeks, so let’s get to the gist of this week’s update. Do you remember Magic Leap? I tried out their unreleased new headset and chatted with the company’s CEO about the startup’s mad rush so far. So let’s talk about it.


the big thing

This week, I spent about an hour playing with the never-before-seen next-gen Magic Leap headset, while discussing the augmented reality company’s wild ride with Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson and other members. of their management team. Ultimately, Magic Leap is poised to deliver a very compelling device, but despite that, the industry at large has been so stagnant publicly in the nearly five years since the company unveiled its first device that the opportunity for augmented reality has still never been felt. Further.

Few startups have been publicly subjected to such drastic humiliation as augmented reality glasses maker Magic Leap has been in recent years. It’s a saga that has slowed the progress of an industry – touted as the inevitable successor to mobile phones – to a crawl.

The Florida startup infamously raised billions of dollars in venture capital on the promise of delivering a new tech future to consumers far more impactful than the launch of the iPhone. When it finally launched its first product after years of delays, secrecy and hype, tech watchers balked at a device that fell short of many claims made by the eccentric startup founder. , Rony Abovitz, and instead made largely incremental gains over the competing Microsoft HoloLens. which was unveiled years earlier. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey called the device a “tragic heap” and sales of the device plummeted – The Information reported that the company only sold 6,000 devices in the six months following its launch. long-awaited launch.

“[Magic Leap’s previous marketing strategies] were amazing at bringing a lot of attention to the company and the domain itself, not so good at setting realistic expectations,” Magic Leap CMO Daniel Diez told us.

A ridicule-laden launch was followed by near-catastrophic financial ruin for the fast-spending company which was forced to lay off half of the company’s employees in April 2020 and left to seek bridge financing which she lifted with a seemingly massive discount to avoid a stoppage. After the move, Abovitz resigned and former Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson was brought in to turn the company around and abandon her short-term consumer ambitions in favor of a less sexy corporate rollout.

“When I arrived, I had to reset our focus and rebuild my credibility,” Johnson told me.

After 18 months of work in the midst of a seemingly endless global pandemic, Johnson brought me in to show off what the company was working on: its new headset, the Magic Leap 2.

I spent about 20 minutes with the new headset which consists of much lighter face-worn goggles (248 grams vs 316 grams for ML1), remote control input device (with new optical tracking system ) and a fairly heavy compute pack worn on a belt that houses the brains of the device. The main feature of the device is its expanded field of view which now almost doubles the visual area inside the glasses where digital content can be displayed. It’s an impressive feat and makes the headset a definite improvement over its predecessor.

The device is still in development and it’s clear that they were trying out some new software features which will hopefully be more refined when the device ships this summer. All in all, I was impressed with what honestly looks like the best augmented reality device that will soon hit the market. But while it makes big gains over competing devices like the HoloLens 2, it’s also clear that even if it was their first iteration, it still wouldn’t have lived up to the expectations that Magic executives Leap had fixed for initial device and product category.

I’ve spent an awful lot of time covering the AR/VR market and have written a dozen stories about Magic Leap specifically over the years with probably a thousand more about the broader AR/VR industry. What is clear to me is that the AR industry has now been stalled in public for years. The development of mobile AR on smartphones was more or less a complete failure and destroyed dozens of startups. The future for enterprise use doesn’t look particularly bright to me either, as there are so few hardware drives powering so few headsets that there isn’t much of a software development scene left compared to 2018 or 2019.

“In the space we’re looking for…it’s really just us and Microsoft,” Johnson concedes.

While Microsoft appears to be having some misfires with its multi-billion dollar military contract and reports may even indicate that it is losing interest in launching a new version of HoloLens, it is clear that Magic Leap is in a lonely position. . On the consumer side, there’s more reason to be optimistic as Facebook and Apple have reportedly set their sights on a consumer version of a mixed reality device. But as Apple closes in on the rumored release of a consumer headset, Magic Leap CTO Julie Larson-Green seems skeptical of what it might possibly release.

“We’ll see what they do,” Larson-Green tells me. “I still don’t understand what are the consumption scenarios that take you out of the game, which is a small confined niche… What are those scenarios? Certainly for me, it’s not notification glasses, I don’t need more things that distract me, but I’m excited to see what Apple thinks it is.


Adam Mosseri at TechCrunch Disrupt

other stuff

Here are a few stories this week that I think you should take a closer look at:

Russia says it will block Instagram
It’s been a busy week for companies taking advantage of a wave of private market sanctions against Russia. While many big tech platforms aim to reduce the presence of Russian state media on their platforms, Russia has been particularly keen on Meta shutting down Facebook and announced this week that it also intends to close access to Instagram in the country.

Biden issues executive order on crypto
Biden’s long-awaited executive order on cryptocurrencies went live this week and the crypto industry breathed a sigh of relief. EO has largely prompted government agencies to begin researching the implications of crypto and how the government should balance protecting investors while ensuring the United States remains a hub of crypto innovation.

Everything Apple announced this week
Apple unveiled a few products this week, including a very, very fast new desktop Mac and an upgraded iPhone SE. Beyond that, Apple introduced many other low-key announcements in its “Peek Performance” event.


Non-fungible golden token under magnifying glass with computer network circuit.

Picture credits: mustafahacalaki (Opens in a new window) /Getty Pictures

things added

Some of my favorite reads from our TechCrunch+ subscription service this week:

Are we entering an NFT slowdown?
“The health of the NFT market is in itself a fascinating data project. The historical price volatility of crypto tokens and other blockchain-based assets is high, which means you could be tricked into calling a trend early, only for the markets to reverse and make you look ridiculous. In the world of crypto, it’s good to never say never. And yet, we’re content to highlight a number of data points that indicate the NFT market is slowing across multiple axes, indicating, at a minimum, that hot sector growth has stalled…”

How to calculate your startup’s TAM
“…When you present your market size data to investors, they look for TAM, SAM, and SOM information. These data points hold a mystique of numbers that may seem colossal and out of reach, but if you approach market size methodically, you’ll realize that it really isn’t that complicated…

6 technologists detail how no-code is changing software development
“…Mass adoption is still delayed, however: many organizations prefer to build from scratch, and complete end-to-end solutions are still elusive. To get a deeper insight into the technical aspects of the space, we decided to talk to some of the technologists ushering in the no-code/low-code revolution…”


Thanks for reading!

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