Magic Leap, the $4.5 billion startup backed by Google building technology that "augments" human vision with digital imagery, is scrambling to finish a working prototype before an important board meeting next week.
Here is the first public photo of a working prototype of Magic Leap's portable augmented reality device, which was given to Business Insider by a source.
We attempted to authenticate this information with Magic Leap but the company declined to comment by time of publication, but Magic Leap CEO Abovitz responded on Twitter on Saturday evening.
This early prototype was described to Business Insider as "PEQ0" and "the real wearable." PEQ is a term that Magic Leap uses to describe its current prototype. The photo is what the device looked like as of early January, and the source said there have been improvements to the prototype since then.
The board will see a carefully planned demo of the "PEQ" by CEO Rony Abovitz next week, using equipment that looks more finished, with belt packs instead of a backpack, the person said.
Abovitz explained a bit about the development process for the prototype in an email sent to employees. The email was in response to a December report published by The Information that called into question whether Magic Leap's technology could be sufficiently miniaturized and commercialized to fulfill the company's promises.
Abovitz wrote in the December memo (bolded portion his own):
"I used a PEQ0b (our 3rd mini-production run) about a week ago. We still have more cycles to go (PEQ1-PEQ5), but it was awesome. In 2014 (just over 2 years ago) we were still in a little warehouse-strip mall thingy and just rolling into the DCOTA, and just turning on the first WDx series (WD1, WD2, WD3, etc.). We now have a working factory and PEQ systems in hand.
We only have one response that matters.
Ignore all of this. Focus on what we are doing, and we ship a great product. That will speak loudly and reverberate for many years."
As Business Insider previously reported, the board meeting next week is seen as a milestone in the product's development, and a chance to prove that Magic Leap can shrink its technology to fit inside the smaller form factor that will be released to the public.
But the prototype is a long way from being a market-ready product or from being truly portable — the person's left hand in the photo is holding a large battery pack, for example.
Magic Leap has raised $1.39 billion dollars in venture capital, valuing the company at $4.5 billion, from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Google, JPMorgan, Fidelity and Alibaba.
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Editing and additional reporting by Steven Tweedie.