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Alibaba To Invest In Secretive Google-Backed AR Company Magic Leap
Magic Leap, the Florida-based augmented reality company that landed half-a-billion USD in funding from Google last year, is now reportedly in talks with Alibaba to seal its next round of funding.
Sources who spoke to Recode say that the Chinese tech giant is expected to lead the company’s next round with a $200 million USD investment. According to the South Florida Business Journal, multiple sources say the company’s total round will be around the $1 billion mark.
Magic Leap has attracted a lot of attention for its secretive product development and eccentric CEO. While the company has yet to release a working prototype, they’ve attracted the attention — and dollars, of some of the world’s biggest tech and entertainment names.
Besides Google, previous investors include Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment, Avatar founder Richard Taylor and Lord of the Rings special effects company Weta Workshop
Their product employs ‘Light-Field Technology’-enabled goggles that supposedly allow you to overlay real-life scenes with highly advanced 3D graphics.
At last week’s WSJ Live conference CEO Rony Abovitz (who once dressed up as an astronaut to deliver a TED Talk) told the audience that Magic Leap provides “cinematic reality” as opposed to traditional augmented or virtual reality concepts. He said that the technology “replicates” the light field that humans experience in regular sight.
Mr. Abovitz, who worked on medical technology before joining Magic Leap, said that traditional forms of virtual reality don’t conform to the way the brain is designed to interact with the eye, an issue he says Magic Leap resolves using photonic light fields and visual wave fronts.
Magic Leap’s secrecy over the product has attracted a lot of hype, enough apparently to catch the attention of Alibaba.
The Chinese tech company has been expanding rapidly into entertainment following the establishment of Alibaba technologies earlier this year. They’ve reached into a wide array of tech-related investments including internet TV, e-retail-backed film promotion and, most recently, a complete acquisition of Youku Tudou, one of the country’s largest online streaming services.
Alibaba appears to be following the lead of other global tech giants looking to cash in on the next generation of AR and VR tech. Google has invested in multiple AR projects, including Google Glass, while Facebook bought VR startup Occulus for $2 billion USD last year. Chinese companies are also showing interest in the developing AR and VR playing field, earlier this year China Media Capital (CMC) followed Walt Disney in a $65 million USD funding round for VR startup, Jaunt.
Here’s look at the Magic Leap demo they released during the WSJ Live conference, showing an animated android hiding under a desk and a 3D representation of the solar system floating in an office space: