What it is: Magic Leap announced massive layoffs as one of the early augmented reality pioneers.
For the past few years, Magic Leap has been gobbling up billions of dollars to produce an augmented reality headset. Not surprisingly, Magic Leap recently announced massive layoffs and a shift away from the consumer market. So what went wrong?
Visit Magic Leap’s web site (https://www.magicleap.com/en-us) and you’ll notice a startling omission. What crucial problem does Magic Leap solve?
Ask yourself what problem a supermarket or an auto repair shop solves and you can find a straightforward answer. Ask yourself what problem Magic Leap’s headset solves and you have no clear idea. Not surprisingly, without the ability to solve a clear, pressing problem, few people bothered to buy a Magic Leap headset. With few customers, Magic Leap wound up churning through investment money with nothing to show for it and no future whatsoever.
The bottom line is that if your product can’t solve a specific problem, you literally don’t have a business.
The real key to augmented reality isn’t just to play games with technology but to solve problems. Solve a pressing problem and people will buy your product.
Just look at mobile phones before the iPhone. They were clumsy to use and limited in capability. Then the iPhone arrived and essentially gave you a computer in your pocket that could also take pictures and track your location to give directions while playing music like an MP3 player.
The iPhone solved multiple problems and literally wiped out the mobile phone market (Nokia and Blackberry), the MP3 player market (the iPod), GPS standalone devices, and standalone digital cameras. People were unhappy with the current products on the market so they flocked to the iPhone.
Now ask yourself again, what pressing problem does a Magic Leap headset solve? The answer is nothing. Not surprisingly, Magic Leap’s sales were close to nothing.
The future of augmented reality lies in solving a pressing problem and that will likely occur with smart glasses that solve a person’s vision problems. Eliminate the physical grinding of custom lenses and allow computational photography to provide lenses to correct vision problems and you immediately solve a pressing need. Anything else is extra.
The future of augmented reality won’t be on smartphones or tablets but in smart glasses (wearable computers). We’re not quite there yet but that’s the future. Companies that fail to identify a problem to solve, like Magic Leap, simply represent the path towards failure.