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Magic Leap looking to raise at a $6B valuation (techcrunch.com)
82 points by paladin314159 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

So the new Apple iPhone X has a front sensor that can generate depth maps, and a rear-sensor that does even more sophisticated depth mapping. They also have a CPU that is as powerful as anything you get in Desktop PCs.

So tell me, what's to keep someone from using the depth information on the front camera, using a Google Dream VR setup (but instead of covering the back of the iphone, use that sensor for the world around them) and then projecting poor man's AR with today's world. If the answer is wrong sensors, they can fix that next year, and do it at a size and a scale that no one else can touch.

You just took a hardware problem, and made it a software problem.

The fact that Peter Jackson has evidently jumped ship to ARKit is a pretty big sign that Apple is going to get there first.

Apple's focus on ML on the phone directly, not requiring a server at the RTT latency is perfect for this application. They have hardware no one can touch, and do full stack miniaturization like no one else. Plus they also attract "lifestyle" buyers.

The rear sensor does not do "even more sophisticated depth mapping". TrueDepth sensor is only on the front. The CPU is not as powerful as anything you get in Desktop PCs. There's an order of magnitude power difference between a mobile SoC and a desktop CPU/GPU combination. If you have doubts about that, try running full Photoshop on a mobile SoC via Windows 10 on ARM. Not sure what "Dream VR" is. Do you mean Daydream?

Nothing is keeping someone.

Probably the depth sensor is not high enough resolution. The camera is not high enough resolution. The phone battery will be dead in 45 minutes. I imagine the high end AR market would be for things like surgery where extreme precision matters. For instance hook a high precision AR device up to a C-arm and the way angioplasty is carried out would be completely changed forever.

While AR would be a cool use-case for angioplasty the difference to current methods (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interventional_radiology) probably isn't as big as you think.

I guess I meant data-wise. The image of the catheter and blood vessels would be superimposed in the AR device and the doctor would look at the patient instead of a monitor.

By putting AI on the Phone, they invert the data center and communication problem. The mainframe vs smart client cycle continues. A lower powered chip on the client would need a more powerful chip in the datacenter to make up for data transit time. Individual users pay for power, manage heat dissipation and upgrades. This actually saves Apple billions in data center costs while making them money.

And as a nice add-on, they get to brag about being privacy friendly since nothing leaves the device.

I'm becoming quite convinced that long-term this might be Apple's biggest selling-points (and they realize this).

In precisely the areas where Apple has or might end up having difficulty competing with the likes of, say, Google and their massive datasets, the focus on privacy and security might very well be enough for consumers to go for the 'inferior' product.

For example, I've considered switching away from Apple for my new phone, but the security of the iPhone (or so I've read multiple times here on HN) is enough to keep from even considering a switch to an Android device even if everything else were better on Android.

The same goes for my photos. I'd love the features Google Photos offers, but I just don't feel comfortable uploading them all to their servers. While Apple's implementation of these features might be inferior, at least I can keep things on my (secure) devices.

> They also have a CPU that is as powerful as anything you get in Desktop PCs.

Is this actually true?


Geekbenchmark is a bad test. It does a series of short burst tests spaced out over time. These avoid harsh thermal throttling on mobile devices, yet on larger desktops they don't register as a heavy workload so the maximum clock doesn't come into play. Bigger chips will stay down clocked.

Effectively what Geekbenchmark's result ends benchmarking sleep state transition speed.

Desktop/Laptops don't spin up/down as fast as cellphones so this heavily favors them. Just doing a continuous long test would heavily favor desktops/laptops as they have better designed heatsinks.


iPhones do have great processors, just fair mobile/desktop test are very hard. They are different chips, that require different power, change clock states in different ways, and have different thermal constraints.

The core workloads in most scenarios are very different, so fair for one isn't fair for another.

I might be talking from ignorance here, but if you put the iPhone chips in a different environment that included the same active cooling that desktop CPUs enjoy, would this still be true?


Modern X64 cores are super smart. Not just on _easy_ things, like predicting branches, and how data flows though instructions. But with caching, memory access, inter-core communication, cache snooping, and cache synchronization/invalidation.

The real issue for modern system is RAM access. Everything you CPU does between hitting RAM may as well be instant how expensive a RAM hit is.

X64 has a large cache hierarchy to make this rarer. A11/A10X/A10 less so.

Most arm servers perform incredibly poorly per core and are significantly less power efficient.

Transistor count is a limited metric. That said, the A11 supposedly has 4.3 billion transistors, which is more than IBM's 12-core POWER8 chip's count. Apples to oranges, since the A11 has far more application-specific circuitry and much lower power consumption & clock speed.


Ps: should be noted that the embedded GPU in the A11 contributes many transistors.

Yes it is, at least when using Geekbench as a measure. The A11 beats some of the Intel processors in the 2017 MacBook Pro models.


Well, that makes the CPU as powerful as some processors in mobility focused laptops, not as powerful as "anything you get in desktop PCs".

I'm writing this from my linux desktop. It has 11k/3.8k for the geekbench numbers. This is pretty much there.

Tend to agree. The big problem no-one has solved is the glasses/immersive aspect.

Hololens is close, but the kit is waaaay to bulky still (and low FoV, not bad tho). In a few years tho... some kind of ARKit accessory will absolutely kill in this space.

Yup. Apple's depth sensor + ML can be also used as pretty powerful 3D hand gesture mapper. Better than Leap Motion I would guess. Also, switching to OLED allows low persistence. Their new custom GPU and custom video encoder on iPhone 8/X might even allow them to do ultra-low-latency AR pipeline. It's coming it's for sure.

getting there first is not the same as winning :)

Specially when you have players around with unlimited cash.

Have any other companies raised at this valuation pre-product, much less pre-market fit? Where does this value come from? Have they booked even 1% of that valuation in sales, or is it all speculative?

And I'm baffled in light of the space (AR), where I feel like there are a lot of high profile players and fast movers. Not delivering seems incredibly untenable.

Trilogy Systems perhaps. (It seems they IPO'ed pre-product? Someone on this forum was probably around when this happened.)

Trilogy Systems Corporation was a computer systems company started in 1980. Originally called ACSYS, the company was founded by Gene Amdahl, his son Carl Amdahl[1] and Clifford Madden. Flush with the success of his previous company, Amdahl Corporation, Gene Amdahl was able to raise $230 million for his new venture. Trilogy was the most well funded start-up company up till that point in Silicon Valley history. It had corporate support from Groupe Bull, Digital Equipment Corporation, Unisys, Sperry Rand and others. The plan was to use extremely advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques to build an IBM compatible mainframe computer that was both cheaper and more powerful than existing systems from IBM and Amdahl Corporation.


In 1983, the company had an initial public offering and raised $60 million.

By mid-1984, the company decided it was too difficult to manufacture their computer design. Gene Amdahl stepped down as CEO and Henry Montgomery was brought in as replacement.


I thought maybe Skycar since it spans 40+ years, but even they've apparently "only" spent 100 million (although inflation adjustment would boost it a bit).

Theranos is the only other one that comes to mind and we all know how that played out.

I'm skeptical, but the Magic Leap engineers I've met have been really confident that their tech is going to be a game changer (and of course wouldn't tell me anything about it ;)). Guess we'll see when they show their product publicly - it's weird that they've decided to stay stealth for this long.

> the Magic Leap engineers I've met have been really confident that their tech is going to be a game changer

Sure, but I'm sure there were engineers at Theranos who thought their tech was going to be a game-changer as well. Being confident in a product doesn't mean the product is actually any good.

> Not delivering seems incredibly untenable.

I would happily place a bet they will never deliver, or if they do deliver it ends up being lackluster and nowhere near what they originally promised. They showed a demo video two years ago (that turned out to not actually be a demo), and haven't released anything since.

Technology does not stand still in that time: in 2015, the iPhone had a single rear and front-facing camera. Soon you'll be able to buy one with stereographic rear cameras and a dot-projection IR depth mapper on the front, with what is from all accounts an extremely good AR software framework.

Oculus, Apple, and Google aren't just twiddling their thumbs waiting for Magic Leap to release a product. They are actively putting money into R&D, and shipping iteratively. Apple's going to have real-world AR experience and feedback from iOS 11 and the iPhone X that Magic Leap won't have.

I'd love to be wrong - it'd be great to have another player in the space, and maybe their tech is awesome. But if you look at what everyone else is doing compared to what they've released...it doesn't look good.

But phones are not exactly the same thing are they ? You are supposed to put a magic leap device on your face which then projects images onto your retina. Even if Apple and google gain AR experience, magic leap could still be game changer

> But phones are not exactly the same thing are they?

I guarantee you that Apple is researching the same kinds of display tech that Magic Leap is (they have patents today on head-mounted displays). If/when they release their hardware their SLAM architecture will have been tried and tested across millions of phones. That is a massive advantage.

Sure, they are researching similar stuff, but is it really the same kind of Retina projection Magic leap is doing? That seems to be like their main selling point, of course if Apple can replicate the same tech and have all of their experience from software, Magic Leap will be DOA

I've heard from insiders Apple has the same tech as the Hololens andthat the Hololens and the Magic Leap tech are essentially the same (Microsoft seems to be actually ahead with the inside out tracking solution). Magic Leap was ahead with their first prototype but it was the size of a fridge. Microsoft and Apple probably had or have acquired similar tech since then.

And yes iPhone X is really smart.

Yeah except Google is one of the backers. If one of the companies actively working on R&D is backing it, isn't that saying something?

Google Ventures is legally distinct from Google. And Google Ventures is actually a mediocre venture firm based on their history.

Google Ventures passed on Magic Leap but Sergey liked it so produced an investment directly from Google's balance sheet.

> And Google Ventures is actually a mediocre venture firm based on their history.

Mediocre relative to which CVCs? Intel Capital?

Intel Capital has been around for quite a bit so that would be an unfair comparison. I am curious to how you reached your conclusion?

Google Ventures backed Uber, but that doesn't stop Google from running its own self-driving car unit.

Didn't stop that lawsuit either.

Google Ventures also backed Juicero...

Have you spoken to current or former engineers? I have spoken to a few former engineers, and the responses ranged from neutral to negative on the prospects of the product appeal of the tech. Obviously both groups will be biased in their own way. My own impression is that the stealthiness comes from the lack of a quality deliverable, and not a holdout of some mind-blowing reveal.

Yep. Pretty clear they haven't demoed a consumer-ready product because they can't yet.

The pace of the product space and the profile of players in the space both indicate that sandbagging is an awful strategy. I'm likely to believe it's a lack of deliverable.

I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but still, confidence does not a six billion dollar valuation make.

As correctly predicted by Taek eight days ago


Apple's ARKit release has opened many people's eyes to the potential of AR as the true nextgen platform.

Made possible by apples truly vertically integrated hardware/software biz.

Especially in comparison to goog with their stillborn Project Tango due to the huge android platform fragmentation.

So how is a magic leap worth $6b? Consider that Android generated in excess of $31billion in revenue by Jan '16(1).

Having a "killer app" to capture market share in the coming AR consumer platform wars is easily worth that price of admission and if ML pulls it off $6b will look cheap.


I think you missed googles recent announcement for ARCore. They seem not that far off as it will also work on older phones to some extent.

I don't think so. AR kit to work effectively needs carefully factory calibrated cameras for SLAM, cheap android phones will always offer a subpar experience.

This company is now 7 years old and has no product.

Total raised: $1.39B[0]. The last round was almost $800M in Feb.

This $500M will bring the total to $1.9B.

Truly amazing.

0. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/magic-leap#/entity

There's a lot of 'lol, vaporware' type comments about Magic Leap, but taking some new fangled hardware from a crude proof of concept in a lab to the mass market in 7 or 8 years actually sounds like an ambitious timeline to me. These things usually take a long time. They also often end up going nowhere, which is why it's really surprising to see how much capital is being gambled.

All the hardware that went into the first iPhone (the last really breathtaking consumer gadget) was decades in the making, with many iterative intermediate steps along the way. Attempting to go from 0 to 60 in one product cycle is kind of crazy, but I'm not sure how else you would do it this day and age with expectations being so high, there's no room for anything half baked. Either you make the leap or you don't.

I would totally pay $2k for ar glasses that live up to the hype, though even under the best of circumstances, I don't expect Magic Leap to be living up to any hype for several more years.

I'm very skeptical of Magic Leap, but I really do hope they succeed.

Mostly I'm wondering how many examples we actually have of Magic Leap type situations actually ending up being a success.

While the iPhone was a breakthrough, it wasn't so much a breakthrough in pure technology (rather, it was mostly the innovative combination of existing tech). Furthermore, it had the weight and expertise of Apple behind it.

What examples do we have of companies similar to Magic Leap, where the success is dependent on true technical innovation in a space where they compete with some of the best and brightest working for BigCorps? Honest question. While I can think of many cases where the result proved to be 'vaporware', I can't think of many (if any) success-stories in this particular kind of situation.

They must know something we don't or there's so much money laying around, so a certain % goes into trash. For the company it makes sense to have as much cash a possible, not even blue chip companies could raise cash in 2008. 2008 is due to make a comeback IMO, in some form.

Then why is it so damn hard to raise anything when you have a product that works and traction? Of course reality always pales in comparison to what might lie behind door number two.

Potential maybe? This market might bring an iPhone-like revolution

Patents alone probably make the valuation

Look at the amount of jobs they are hiring for:



There has to be a lot of really dumb people at venture capital companies if it turns out magic leap has no real tech. Which, given the Theranos debacle, is very possible.

It's all about who's on their board and who they've raised money from. If they have relevant industry expertise on their board and have raised money from smart investors like sequoia they probably have real tech. If they have bunch of dumb money and people who bring nothing technical to the board they're more likely to be another Theranos. Not having medical and science expertise and raising dumb money was part of Theranos' problem.

Having said that Magic Leap's investors are Google, Andreessen Horowitz and Qualcom. The board is comprised of Google's CEO and Qualcom's executive chairman.

That's all very impressive in my opinion.

The amount of your prior exit (Rony's $1.65B) ≈ amount you can raise for next (Magic Leap) :)

They have 'real tech' - the issue is how marketable and productizable it is.

This is an old, old issue in tech investing.

Sometimes companies have amazing demos - but the ability to make a product is limited, or the market potential is limited.

That this money is coming from far-away, is not a good sign. If they were truly hot, then the 'good firms' would be lining up. I loathe to use the term 'dumb money' but there is a lot of it flooding into the US as of late - a similar thing was happening during the 2000 bubble, but this might be more sustainable as before it was regular money from overseas, or from big-boston firms - but now - the money coming in from Asia is sustainable. All that money we send for cheap stuff has to come back and find a home somewhere.

And 'dumb' is a relative/unfair term as well - for some investors, it makes much more sense to take on higher risk than others as their personal needs and opportunity are different. If you have $1B sitting in a fund and nowhere to put it, and your local government can come along and snatch it up at any time either through currency dilution or appropriation - well - all of a sudden a slightly-risky investment in Magic Leap makes much more sense than it would to say, Anderseen Horowitz.

VC investors are just as human as you and me. Manipulating people into parting with their social-economic power is essentially a solved problem. What Magic Leap says their gonna sell isn't.

Or the alternative is that they've seen things we haven't. Who would miss the opportunity to build the next Apple?

The contrarian in me is wondering what would make this feel like a safe bet from an investor's perspective?

For example, what is the value of the patent portfolio they are putting together by being first to most technical challenges?

The Magic Leap is investors putting so much money in a 7 year old company without a product. Even considering they have now a game changer product, what did they have 5 years ago to make investors put money on them? This is technology, who the hell put money in technology as a bet for more than 3 years in the future?

They had a prototype much much bigger than the current PEQ and as far as I know every investor before putting money tried it and was blown away by the experience.

What is a PEQ?

Product EQuivalent: https://www.magicleap.com/#/blog/why-creativity-matters It's an advanced prototype of the finished product that has been presented to the investors for the first time this February as far as I know.

The only thing missing at this point is an ICO for an AR coin from Magic Leap. You know, to just really drive it home.

That would put Magic Leap somewhere between Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash in their crypto market cap.

Magic Cards were successful... so maybe the coins will blow us all away...??

Unless this company comes out with a public demo showing their product minus any obfuscation you have to be a massive sucker to buy into this. Maybe this will be better than Segway and Theranos combined?

Seeing that Apple has packed so much into the top of the iPhone X gives me some hope for Magic Leap. I'm not a proponent nor a skeptic of their business, but I'm familiar with the space.

The technology has to be undeniably the most advanced thing ever created in order to succeed. Look at HoloLens. Truly incredible technology with lots of potential. But the UX isn't great and the form factor is a showstopper for every day use. Microsoft has opted to cancel their second iteration in favour of the third. Perhaps we'll see a magic leap then, from them, before Magic Leap.

It appears as though the technology is there to get near the form factor of glasses. If you tethered the glasses to a phone sized device in my pocket, that's good enough. I suspect that's what MS is working on now, and I suspect that's Magic Leap's goal.

What remains to be seen is how these companies can adapt their technology to interface better with humans. When you're using a computer, you sort of forget you're using a mouse. When you're using HoloLens, you're painfully aware of the input mechanisms - they leave a lot to be desired, and are in no way immersive. That's the other 99% of this problem for these companies. Holograms are one hard problem. But there are at least two. You have to make it useable. It needs to fall away from your consciousness when you use it.

VR is easier in that regard, and when it comes to user interfacing, VR still falls flat on its face. VR sucks.

Make it work and not look dorky, and make it easy to use and you'll kill cellphones.

They keep talking about a sunglasses size product. Is even such a thing possible? I understand they are using vectored graphics, and I can't imagine you could create an immersive world within a sunglasses sized computational unit, unless they have massive compression and crazy hardware. But can you pass that data wirelessly? Can BlueTooth 5 handle the necessary traffic?

Last report I read mentioned two waist-mounted units for computing and battery that would be linked up to the sunglass-sized product (presumably by wires).

I'm sure they have made some good technical advances. But the fact that it's taken this long to productize it to something people can try is.. not promising.

Given their burn rate they really need the first product to have substantial market traction to sustain such valuations and keep moving. That's challenging to say the least..

It's worth noting that this is some guys educated speculation on the matter. Nobody knows how this will actually work without signing an NDA at this time.

So they previously raised a BILLION dollars. Why are they raising more? I can't imagine this company spending a billion dollars in only a couple of years considering they're not even shipping anything yet.

Because cutting-edge hardware is expensive as hell to develop.

For example, Nvidia's R&D budget spend for just their Tesla architecture was $3B.

But they make the money to justify it...

Volta* architecture. Granted I'm sure Tesla was quite expensive too, but not that expensive. Pascal (Volta's predecessor) was in the billions however.

> Sources also told Bloomberg that Magic Leap will likely begin shipping devices

For $6B I would hope you would use a stronger word than "likely". Such as "definitely".

I would have said that 4 years ago, when they were 3 years in.

> All we have seen are a slew of videos “shot directly through Magic Leap technology” that give a sense of what is possible with a football helmet-sized rig, but perhaps not in their final consumer product which the company believes will be sized like a pair of sport sunglasses.

From "football helmet-sized rig" to "sport sunglasses" is a huge leap (ha ha). Is that much miniaturization plausible within a few years?

Is there anyway to bet AGAINST it? Can you buy some sort of put option on Magic Leap?

I guess like all bubbles/crazy tech you can know they are there, but unless you know exactly when they are going to pop, it's not to useful.

This is going to be a solid fail once they start selling the tech and everyone catches on. How could one go about betting against?

Wouldn't be surprised if Apple R&D is also working on AR Glasses considering their ambitious attempt in making AR the big in the newly launched iPhones. In fact they need a new product for masses just like their iPhone.

That must be a day when Magic Leap could face the fate of Blackberry or Pebble!

I believe they are working with Zeiss in that field.

And really, who isn't looking to raise at a $6B valuation that hasn't released a product yet ?

Magic Leap somehow feels less sketchy than Theranos for some reason. Definitely have my popcorn out though.

It's almost comforting to read about negative to neutral gossip from ex-engineers.

7 years, $1.4B in funding. What are the odds that they are, you know, just a mere $500 million from showing a multiple on all that cash?

It is going to require a magic leap for that company to ship anything! Sorry, could not resist...

Do AR Glasses or contact lenses exist yet?

They act like normal glasses or contacts (prescription or not) until you use voice controls to view info and such.

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