What is Magic Leap? Breaking Down The Hardware, Software, and Development Potential

Last Updated: September 17 2018

Magic LeapUnity

We break down how Magic Leap One’s hardware works in conjunction with its software, and dig into how you can get started creating for Magic Leap One.

What is Magic Leap One?

Virtual reality headsets like those from Oculus or Vive remove you from the real world and place you within a virtual world. Augmented reality headsets like Magic Leap does the reverse: they bring virtual objects into the real world for you to interact with and manipulate.

How It Works:

  •  Rather than projecting an image onto a screen, Magic Leap One projects images directly into your eye, like a projector at a theatre. Virtual light is mixed with the regular light coming into your eye.
  • The light is angled into your eye through six small lenses lit invisibly from the side to create the 3D illusion. This technology is what Magic Leap calls a “lightfield.”
  • The device reads where you are looking, and keeps that field consistent as you move around virtual objects. In a sense, the objects “stick” to the real world.
  • Using both the visual field and sounds, Magic Leap One creates what they call a Volumentric View – essentially a space like an aquarium you move within to interact with both real and virtual objects.

The Hardware

Magic Leap One consists of a headset with tinted lenses and built in speakers allowing the user to see and hear the world around them. The headset, called Lightwear, is connected to and powered by the Lightpack, a battery-powered processing system that hooks into your belt or pocket. Magic Leap One allows hand-tracking (meaning you can interact with some applications with your hands), or you can use the 6DoF controller.

This article from IFIXIT goes into detail taking apart a Magic Leap One headset and Lightpack, including technical specifications. We’ve put together a summary for you below:

  • The Lightpack handles the computer processing and sends image and sound data to the headset
  • The Lightwear headset tracks your position, including eye- and hand-tracking, and maps the environment around you
  • Within the headset are tinted lenses with small projectors that literally project the virtual objects into your eye, blending seamlessly with light information from the real world
  • The tinted lenses help integrate the Lightwear headset’s 4:3 ratio field of view with your natural field of view, and focuses your perspective on virtual objects
  • The small black box on the right-side of the headset communicates wirelessly with the controller

how does magic leap work

The Software

Magic Leap One uses the Lumin OS that has a responsive and intuitive UI. Menus and options are displayed as floating “windows,” and you navigate through using the controller. And the background music is pretty pleasant, too.

Lucas Rizzotto on Medium covers a few of the launch apps available, and while he notes a couple of his favourite apps -- Helio in particular -- he concludes that Magic Leap One’s greatest strength lies in its developer community taking charge in creating valuable applications.

Rizzotto explains that “if you’re an experienced creator who’s passionate about MR computing and want to take part in it while it’s still being written — the Magic Leap One is the cheapest and best all-around mobile MR headset in the market.” Magic Leap is “giving developers the strongest set of tools available to re-imagine computing.”

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How do you create for Magic Leap?

Unity has partnered with Magic Leap so just about anyone can start creating in AR!

  • Download Unity's technical preview
  • Run the installer and follow the on-screen directions
  • Register on the Magic Leap Creator Portal
  • Download the Magic Leap Lumin SDK
  • Run the Magic Leap Package Manager
  • Under Common Packages, download and install
    • Lumin SDK
    • C API Documentation
  • Under Unity Packages, download and install
    • Magic Leap Unity Package
    • Unity API Documentation
  • Click "Apply Changes"

That's the basic setup!

Finally, you'll need to configure a Magic Leap Project in Unity then you're all set to start creating Magic Leap apps! You don't need a device to get started, so you can begin creating for Magic Leap in Unity right now.

Surprisingly, it’s that easy — before you know it, you’ll be a programming wizard (virtually and in reality!)

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