Oculus VR Founder Palmer Luckey Trashes Magic Leap One Headset As 'Tragic Heap'

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Palmer Luckey is the founder of the company that created the Oculus Rift VR headset, so he is a bit biased when it comes to VR hardware. On his blog, Luckey penned a new post titled "Magic Leap is a Tragic Heap," and he goes on to say that he carefully chose the title. Luckey writes that the Magic Leap headset is a "tragedy in the classical sense" and then notes that the device is a flashy hype vehicle that no one can use in any meaningful way. Luckey seems to be most angry because the hype surrounding the Magic Leap headset "monopolized" funding in the AR investment community, yet the headset fails to deliver on "almost any" of the promises it made to raise that funding.

There are some specific points that Luckey makes about the Magic Leap headset that he says haven’t been well covered in the general overviews so far. One of those points is on tracking for the wireless controller. Luckey writes, "Tracking is bad. There is no other way to put it." He alleges that the controller is slow at responding, drifts "all over the place" and is unstable when near large steel objects. The specific gripe with that latter complaint is in its instability for use in industrial settings. Software and UI limitations are related to the bad controller according to Luckey.

Magic Leap One

Another point of contention is that the trackpad isn’t clickable as it is in competing devices. Since the trackpad isn't clickable, the user must lift a finger and tap affecting precision or click a trigger while holding, again bad for precision. Luckey does offer praise for the Lightpack, which is the hockey puck-like computing hardware portion of the device that is belt worn. He writes, "This is the best part of the device by far, A+!"

Another big complaint with the Magic Leap design is the headset or "Lightwear" in Magic Leap speak. Originally, the headset promised technology that would solve a long-running issue for all head-mounted displays known as vergence-accommodation conflict. That means ensuring that no matter where the wearer's eyes focus the data beamed into the display converges with the line of site.

Luckey says that the headset had failed to deliver on that promise and that the vergence-accommodation conflict is solved only in "contrived demos" with all UI and environmental elements on one of two focus plains. Luckey says that at all other depths, mismatch occurs and that the headset is correct in the same way "a broken clock displays the correct time twice a day." He wrote, "Spinning hype and monopolizing investment with promises that cannot be met is bad for the entire XR industry, not just Magic Leap."

Other criticism focuses on Magic Leap having promised a whole new operating system, but their OS is Android with a custom "stuff on top." He wrote, "I hope Magic Leap does cool stuff in the future, but the current UI is basically an Android Wear watch menu that floats in front of you." Luckey concludes that the much-hyped headset is "slightly better than HoloLens in some ways," but he says it is slightly worse in others.