Published on October 12th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Magic Leap Brings the Porgs from Star Wars into Mixed Reality
The porg on the carpet looked up at me, its watery eyes pleading, tiny wings flapping uselessly. It wanted a snack. Or maybe a toy? In the background, C-3P0 droned on, occasionally interrupted by a bleating Chewbacca.
I was at the very first L.E.A.P Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, smiling my way through “Star Wars: Project Porg.” Created for Magic Leap by ILMxLAB, the emerging technologies arm of Lucasfilm, the “experiment” was slick, charming, and immersive.
I pointed my controller at it, clicked, and the lights turned on. (The porgs were lit accordingly.) Later, when The Last Jedi began playing on a real-world TV, the porgs waddled over and watched until they (awww) fell asleep.
At L.E.A.P., the focus was often on the “wow” factor. Robots jumping out of portals. Virtual actors reciting Shakespeare. Sea turtles floating through the air.
From across the room, I clicked on a Sonos speaker, and music started playing, complete with a virtual display telling me the name of the song (the Star Wars theme, natch). Neat trick, but what’s the big deal? Well, if you hadn’t noticed, even your damn microwave is a connected device now. And 5G networks — which can transfer data more quickly and handle more devices than 4G networks —will only add fuel to the fire.
Now, imagine if you could control every smart device with a stare or a flick of your wrist, and if those same devices revealed new information, controls, or animations in augmented reality.
Image: Magic Leap
It’s an enticing vision of the future, and Magic Leap isn’t afraid of promising us the moon. Hell, it’s been hinting at AR miracles since it was founded in 2011 — and was mocked for not dropping an actual product until this year.
Still, some of the demos I tried on Tuesday morning were genuinely impressive. Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders reminded me of Oculus hit Robo Recall, but a little less claustrophobic and intense.
The big question: Are a few intriguing games and experiences enough?
Magic Leap needs to spark excitement or developers won’t spend resources creating content, causing investor and consumer interest to wither and die. Oculus, loaded with Zuck bucks, was able to wander out of the content desert and will soon sell a $399 wireless headset that has a shot at competing with the Xbox and PlayStations of the world.
Both Google and Apple are pushing their own AR platforms. But, for now, they’re mostly centered around the smartphone. Magic Leap has a chance to immerse us in a more seamless, interactive Internet of Things. It just needs to stop promising us the future, and actually deliver it.