Magic Leap is partnering with the NBA to bring virtual basketball games to its goggles


Lightfield-display technology company Magic Leap is partnering with the NBA to create digital basketball games that people can watch through its goggles – whenever it is that people are able to get their hands on said goggles, which have been years in the works and are supposed to ship this year.

In a video showed on stage at Recode’s Code Media conference earlier today, retired NBA star and current NBA analyst Shaq was seen wearing a pair of Magic Leap glasses and vouched for the product. “When I went to Magic Leap, I watched a full court game right here,” Shaq said in the video, gesturing towards the empty space on his right. “Lebron was right here. Then I went over here [gesturing to his left] and watched Atlantic play the LA Lakers.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was also interviewed on stage as part of the announcement. As far as we know, Shaq isn’t an official spokesperson for the product – just someone who seems to really like the goggles – but the NBA is a partner.

Florida-based Magic Leap was founded in 2010 and has raised a staggering $1.9 billion in funding to date, from companies like Alibaba, Google, and most recently, Axel Springer. The only problem is that relatively few people have seen the technology in action, and to say the company has been opaque about what it’s making is an understatement.

Magic Leap says it has built lightfield technology that “generates digital light at different depths” to merge the digital world with the real world. Abovitz said today that the system “senses you…[it] gets an emotional state, biomarkers, and information about the world around you” in order to optimize the experience.”

Lightfield-display tech is not new, and it’s something that other startup companies, like Avegant and Lytro, have been trying to commercialize. But Magic Leap has been especially secretive over the past several years about its proprietary tech. (In the past the company has even been criticized for putting out highly-produced demo videos to show what the technology does, rather than showing the actual output from the goggles.)

But in December of 2017 the company finally unveiled a “creator edition” of its augmented reality system, called Magic Leap One, and said it plans to ship the product sometime in 2018, along with its SDK.

In the video seen today at Code Media, Shaq appears to be wearing the same version of these googles, complete with the Lightpack that holds the guts of the system. The video also showed a brief behind-the-scenes of the making of a Magic Leap video, in a cylindrical soundstage with multiple cameras; but no point-of-view video was seen.

During the Code Media interview CEO Abovitz did offer some hints around Magic Leap’s pricing when it ships. “We’re not going to be a single product company over time. Just like some companies have a cascade…think of this like pro-sumerish, then hyper-pro, and then mass market,” he said when pressed on price. “Think higher mobile phone, higher tablet zone.”

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