Magic Leap CEO offers update after damaging report on mixed reality product

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Is that an mixed reality fail whale, or is Magic Leap just being misunderstood?

Only a small handful of people outside of Magic Leap know what the company’s augmented reality/mixed reality product really looks like compared to the promotional videos, but after a particularly critical report earlier this week, the notoriously secretive company appears to be in damage control mode.

It all started on Thursday, when The Information published a report (pay wall) in which a reporter detailed his meeting with company represetnatives and a less than impressive demo of the product, writing, “Magic Leap may have oversold what it can do.”

In addition to comparing the performance of Magic Leap’s demo product to Microsoft’s HoloLens, an AR product Magic Leap has publicly criticized, the reporter also highlighted the company’s first promotion video (below) as more Weta Workshop special effects than a direct example of Magic Leap technology.

Soon after the story hit, the reporter, Reed Albergotti, took to Reddit to answer questions about the story, saying, “What was important is that employees in the company were concerned about [the first video] being misleading to the public.”

The story gained a lot of attention, particularly given the fact that Magic Leap has pulled in $1.4 billion in funding at a valuation of $4.5 billion.

That’s why it surprised no one when Magic Leap’s CEO, Rony Abovitz, emerged online on Friday to issue a public message.

“As we near the end of 2016 and roll into a New Year, I wanted to give all of you a glimpse behind the scenes at Magic Leap,” said Abovitz. “We have completed our first PEQ (Product Equivalent) build of our target form factor, in our new facility. We are about to start a much bigger PEQ run, which will exercise our supply chain and manufacturing/quality operations.”

“We have completed our first PEQ (Product Equivalent) build of our target form factor, in our new facility. We are about to start a much bigger PEQ run.”

The message at first appears to be a simple status update, but then Abovitz gets more specific, indicating that the blog post is almost certainly an indirect response to the previous day’s critical story.

“The units we are building now are for engineering and manufacturing verification/validation testing, early reliability/quality testing, production line speed, and a bunch of other important parameters,” said Abovitz. “There is also a lot more going in our development of software, applications, cool creative experiences and overall operational readiness. Stay tuned the fun is just beginning.”

When contacted by Mashable, the company gave a similarly short “stay tuned” message, hinting that something may finally be about to be revealed. Or not.

And while the reporter claimed to have sampled a version of Magic Leap’s product, on a subsequent podcast, he said, “They didnt show me what it looks like through this final device.” That means we still don’t really know what Magic Leap has in store for consumers, despite the doubt sown by this (perhaps necessary) hype-busting report.

What is clear is that with billions on the line it’s beginning to look like the secretive, NDA-fueled, hype-framed honeymoon is over. If Magic Leap has something amazing to show, it’s time to unveil it, soon.

BONUS: HoloLens IRL: What it’s like in Microsoft’s version of augmented reality

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