Google partners with Magic Leap on mixed reality development


Google has struck a partnership with Magic Leap to develop mixed reality products, the companies announced on Thursday.

The aim is to combine Magic Leap’s optics hardware IP and manufacturing expertise with Google’s own immersive technologies and developer ecosystem to collaborate on extended reality (XR) technologies, the companies said in a blog post. The term XR encompasses augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality technologies.

“We look forward to bringing together Magic Leap’s leadership in optics and manufacturing with our technologies to bring a wider range of immersive experiences to market,” said Shahram Izadi, vice president and general manager of AR/XR at Google, in a press release statement. “By combining efforts, we can foster the future of the XR ecosystem with unique and innovative product offerings.”

Aside from the apparent plan for Google to focus on software and Magic Leap on optics and other hardware, there are few details on what products might result from the partnership, said Avi Greengart, lead analyst at research firm Techsponential.

“[It] could mean that Magic Leap is planning new enterprise AR glasses running Google XR software,” said Greengart, “or perhaps Google will be using Magic Leap optics in its own smart glasses, or…something else entirely.”

Computerworld asked both companies for further information but didn’t receive a response.

The partnership is an extension of a longstanding relationship between the two firms: Google led a $542 million investment in Magic Leap in 2014. (Google CEO Sundar Pichai joined the board at that time, before he reportedly stepped down in 2018.) Magic Leap has received around $4 billion in total funding to date.

The company, which initially sought to gain traction with consumers, switched its focus to enterprise sales in recent years amid reports of low sales.

While it has struggled to gain traction, Magic Leap’s optics technology is attractive to multiple companies in the AR market, said Anshel Sag, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. That includes Meta, which was reportedly in talks with Magic Leap to license its IP last year.

“Optics are not easy, and Magic Leap had to overcome a lot of challenges to deliver its unique display technology,” said Sag.

Google has developed its own AR/VR products too, notably the augmented reality headset Google Glass that launched in 2014. Like Magic Leap, Google also eventually pivoted to focus on enterprise customers after Glass failed to connect with a wider audience. Glass was discontinued last year.

Google has continued to develop various AR/VR technologies, such as Project Astra — an AI agent accessed via smart glasses, as highlighted to a demo at this year’s Google I/O. Google also struck a partnership with Samsung in 2023 with a view to develop mixed reality devices. A Google spokesperson told Reuters on Thursday that the deal with Samsung will not be affected by its collaboration with Magic Leap.

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