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Magic Leap’s lackluster AR demo proves hardware is still hard

The next day, Magic Leap co-founder Rony Abrovitz went on Twitter to explain that the video was a teaching tool for the creator and developer community. “Any video or 2D medium (photos) is completely inadequate to actually deliver the experience of a digital lightfield on ML1,” he tweeted, saying that the Magic Leap hardware is tuned to the way the human eye works, and is not designed for camera sensors. In short, it’s better if you try it.

While that might be true, it’s clear from the backlash that the public’s patience for Magic Leap has grown thin. Over the past four years, the company raised over $2.3 billion in funding, with a chunk of early investment from Google all raising our expectations. The company also released those aforementioned teaser videos, where it really seemed as if it could conjure up virtual creatures and have them interact with the real world.

As great as it seemed, the company has been incredibly secretive, letting only select media try it first hand. There were also reports that some of those early videos were fake, and created with special effects. Combine that with the lackluster golem demo and the fact that it’ll be an AT&T-exclusive and Magic Leap seems like an overhyped mess.

Which, unfortunately, casts doubt on the state of augmented reality in general. While virtual reality is slowly gaining popularity, AR just doesn’t seem to have succeeded in the same way. Google couldn’t make Glass work despite its deep well of resources, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is still very much in the developer stage. Even Apple, which is said to be making its own AR glasses, apparently won’t have anything to show until 2020 at the earliest. What is it that makes AR so difficult? And why hasn’t it taken off?

Except, it sort of has… in the enterprise world, that is. “There are actually over 50 smart glass manufacturers out there in the market now,” said Ori Inbar, the founder of Augmented World Expo and partner of Super Ventures, a venture fund that focuses on augmented reality.