“The Matrix” Film Effects Pioneer and Former Magic Leap Director Reveal “Tragic History” of Recent Struggles at “Magic Leap :: Next Reality” Startup

Magic Leap has had a few tough years, marked by high-level executive departures, lawsuits, troublesome patent reshuffles and massive layoffs.

Despite this, things seem to have calmed down when augmented reality started under Peggy Johnson, but there are still questions about how things went wrong under the old regime.

Don’t Miss: Magic Leap is experiencing yet another major management shake-up, report says

Most of the former Magic Leap staff have kept quiet, but now an important former executive is finally shedding light on the situation.

Former Magic Leap Senior Vice President of Creative Strategy John Gaeta, the man behind some of the iconic effects of the original The matrix film series, left the company in 2019. Since then, Gaeta has been mostly off the radar, aside from his contributions to the upcoming The matrix 4 movie coming later this year.

However, this week, Gaeta took a break from his other work to talk about his career and his intersection with AR, and in the process provided rare insight into what happened at Magic Leap prior to his struggles just before. the pandemic.

Ironically, in light of our new, remote culture, one of Gaeta’s biggest revelations is the elephant that’s always been in the room regarding Magic Leap: location.

“It was a bubble in the state of Florida. A little odd. These bubbles are double-edged swords,” Gaeta said in a nearly two-hour conversation with EON Reality founder Dan Lejerskar. (Gaeta now sits on the company’s advisory board).

“The bubble is far from Silicon Valley, so you are not contaminated by being in the neighborhood in a certain way. But at the same time, you are isolated and therefore you do not benefit from [the] awareness of other things that you need to be aware of. Or the benefit of certain talents who do not necessarily live in Florida. They must therefore import all talents. [That is] super problematic in my opinion because it’s a big decision in a person’s life and you don’t get everyone you really need. “

It’s an interesting prospect considering how much we’ve learned over the past year and a half. Sure, working remotely can be optimal in many ways, but what Gaeta points out is that there is simply no substitute for the kind of positive friction and innovative serendipity that can occur in major technological centers. Separating your business from this type of aggregate pool of talent and ideas can leave your team with unexpected blind spots and potential gaps.

But location and the search for talent are only part of what Gaeta says went wrong at Magic Leap. Above all, what emerges from his comment is something that has plagued many ambitious startups: the lack of laser focus.

“I swear I could maybe write a book or two about the things and people I met there. I would put it this way: the will to achieve part of the vision that Rony [Abovitz] stretching out there was intense and taken very seriously by very smart people. The business itself, in my opinion… it all has to do with what you prioritize as value, ”Gaeta said.

“You have a little bit of conflict when you have a hardcore engineering mission, which is, in this case, the transmission of holographic images in the light of day, and the huge tracking issues and all that sort of thing. It’s like a rocket ship’s mission. There were a lot of people I noticed in the press naively ignoring the vastness of this elevator, and somehow Magic Leap and the engineers were able to get on the page. And even before other companies that were like a hundred -X more resources. “

Indeed, what Magic Leap has accomplished is to be commended. The Magic Leap One and the accompanying software platform are a fantastic system. But while Gaeta’s comments seem to refer to early reviews of the device that weren’t so complimentary, what’s missing is the fact that Magic Leap’s early promises (dating back to 2015) didn’t seem to match up. to what he finally delivered.

In contrast, what immediately comes to mind is how Snap founder and CEO Evan Spiegel has diligently “undersold” what he does when it comes to AR smart glasses. For example, in 2019, Spiegel claimed that mainstream AR smart glasses could be a full decade away, knowing he was set to launch his own user-friendly AR wearable device.

(1) Snap’s direct demo from the Limited Show FoV, (2) The first demo of the whale Magic Leap frequently referenced by its critics. Images via Snap, Magic Leap

Likewise, instead of showing idealized versions of Spectacles’ AR scenes (as Magic Leap was frequently accused of doing), the first demo footage from the new Spectacles showed just how limited the field of view is on the device. . Although the former CEO of Magic Leap seemed to want to follow Apple’s marketing strategy book during Steve Jobs’ day, the key aspect of the IT giant’s strategy was consistently under-promising and over-promising. delivery. Snap seems to understand that part well, while Magic Leap’s ambitious language and visuals were, well, a bit of a leap at times.

If the Snap vs. Magic Leap comparison seems unfair, consider the fact that immediately after the New Shows debuted last month, Abovitz, who is now working on a new immersive production studio startup, took to Twitter to offer his less than stellar. jokes on the device.

In another part of the chat, Gaeta finally addressed Magic Leap’s core issues in terms of running Vision Meetings.

“What’s interesting and rare is that Rony’s vision kind of included creating a happy world that anyone could play in, and he was motivated and motivated by things similar to, say, of a Walt Disney type character. And for me that was appealing and reason enough to try and help them focus, ”Gaeta said.

“But what I found was going on – and it’s not just Magic Leap, I’ve seen it happen many times – is that when there are too many people in the mix, there are too many shattered visions and just like VR the platform for everything, if you don’t have the focus and focus of resources around achieving one thing, you can really get pulled out and diluted and sort of taking a break from the many missions. Unfortunately, that was all over the place in Magic Leap. “

Here it is again: concentrate. This seems to be the recurring opinion of some who believed in the initial vision for Abovitz’s version of Magic Leap and its mission.

“There were a thousand missions which all required financial resources, technical resources… I have never in my life imagined so many opportunities and business potential coming from leaders of you, industry, governments, everything… unbelievable . To a certain extent, that was all left on the table. So it’s kind of a tragic story. “

Fortunately, the story didn’t end there, and now veteran Microsoft Johnson is at the helm, working on new partnerships and forging a new corporate mission that could ultimately rejuvenate Magic Leap, especially when it comes down to it. will release its next hardware device later this year.

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