Lucasfilm, the Disney-owned movie production company behind Star Wars, announced Thursday a new partnership with Magic Leap, a startup working on so-called “mixed reality” technology.
The two firms announced the arrangement during the Wired Business Conference, presenting the video above as a demonstration of what might be possible when fusing Lucasfilm’s intellectual property with Magic Leap’s technology. The footage, while rudimentary in terms of plot, offers an idea of the kinds of storytelling that might be possible with mixed reality.
Instead of virtual reality, which offers users a completely digital environment, mixed reality gives viewers the illusion that computer-generated images are inhabiting their real-world physical surroundings.
Magic Leap has yet to announce a consumer version of its product or many details about how it might work beyond demonstration videos like this one. But CEO Rony Abovitz said Thursday that his goal is “to get all-day, every day computing,” meaning any eventual device might be a head-worn device that he would like users to wear as frequently as many people carry a smartphone today. Lucasfilm Chief Technology Officer Rob Bredow floated that the device might allow users to “skin your world,” adding visual elements from the Star Wars saga, for instance, to the real world around you.
Based in Florida, Magic Leap has raised nearly $1.4 billion in funding from high-profile investors like Google and Andreessen Horowitz. This new partnership, meanwhile, is sure to fuel speculation that Disney may be interested in acquiring the company for its technology and talent.
Still, there are reasons for skepticism about Magic Leap. Google Glass, the most high-profile effort thus far to get consumers to wear a gadget on their face as they go about their day, failed in part because people rejected the idea as too weird. Others have worried that mixed reality could blend the real world and the digital one to an uncomfortable degree. Another concern: a mixed-reality world could offer brands the chance to cover users’ environments in digital advertising.
Abovitz, however, said he views mixed reality as “a sacred space.” “We don’t want this dystopian view of [alternative reality],” he said, using an alternate term for mixed reality.
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