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Magic Leap: Is Spatial Computing the Next Major Tech Platform?

Speaking at BoF’s VOICES, Magic Leap’s Rachna Bhasin and Rebecca Barkin sat down with LVMH chief digital officer Ian Rogers to give attendees a glimpse inside one of the world’s most secretive start-ups.
Left to right: Ian Rogers, Rachna Bhasin and Rebecca Barkin | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — It’s been called the world’s “most secretive” and “most ambitious” start-up. But what’s really going on behind the hype at Florida-based spatial computing company Magic Leap? Ian Rogers, LVMH chief digital officer, sat down with Magic Leap’s Rachna Bhasin and Rebecca Barkin at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, to shed light on one of the most mysterious companies in tech and its mission.

Spatial computing is closely related to virtual reality and augmented reality. But if virtual reality is about digital environments that shut out the world and augmented reality is about digital environments overlaid on the world, spatial computing is about “digital content that interacts with the physical world — and you,” explained Barkin, Magic Leap’s senior director. “We are big fans of the real world. We don’t want to replace this. We want to be able to build upon it.”

“It’s about content that is contextually aware,” added Bhasin, Magic Leap’s chief business officer. In one of its simplest forms, the technology currently allows people to do things like leave virtual screens in physical space, or tie information to spatial locations: for example, tying email to your office or tying recipes to your kitchen.

To hear Magic Leap tell it, spatial computing is the next major technology platform after mobile. It’s a big claim, but one that has attracted the attention of investors such as Google, Alibaba and Temasek, which have collectively poured $2.4 billion into the company. “Mobile is slowing; spatial is the next frontier of computing,” said Bhasin. But the technology is still very much in its infancy and has yet to prove itself as the next big thing.

We are big fans of the real world. We don't want to replace this. We want to be able to build upon it.

Some have suggested that, for now, Magic Leap’s promises to deliver a truly immersive platform that blends the real world with the virtual world remain just that: promises. Today it’s still analogous to “mobile without location services,” conceded Bhasin, likening the Magic Leap’s first product, which hit the market in August, to the first iPhone.

But already Magic Leap’s technology is in the hands of developers and Bhasin described applications as varied as “Shakespeare to surgery.” As for fashion, it’s not hard to imagine Magic Leap being used to develop new retail experiences or bring a runway show to your living room. For now, Magic Leap is encouraging fashion companies to buy and experiment with the technology. “Learn by experiencing,” advised Rogers. “Buy it, try it.”

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.

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The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars is the in-depth report published by BoF Insights, a new data and analysis think tank from The Business of Fashion arming business leaders with proprietary and data-driven research to navigate the fast-changing global fashion industry.

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