The mixed reality startup Magic Leap is making funding history. The Florida-based startup announced $793.5 million in a series C round this week. This is in addition to its previous huge Series B round of $542 million in October 2014 and $50 million raised in February 2014.
Big money and big names doing the investing. Chinese internet Giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. led the funding round joined by Google Inc. and Qualcomm Ventures, Warner Brothers, J.P. Morgan, Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and Wellington Management Company.
The startup is working on a brand new technology called Mixed Realty Lightfield™. The money will be used to bring the technology to market. Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality Lightfield™ technology involves projecting a digital light field into the observer’s eyes, stimulating cones and rods to react as if the projection was real.
To judge by the huge investments made by leading companies the potential of the technology must be convincing. By all accounts it’s a completely new type of virtual reality.
“Here at Magic Leap we are creating a new world where digital and physical realities seamlessly blend together to enable amazing new experiences,” said Rony Abovitz, Founder, President and CEO of Magic Leap Inc.
Presumably only potential investors have had a glimpse at the device Magic Leap has been working on for the last four years. The company has never showed it publicly, but it is said that the device projects 3D images directly into the observer’s retina, convincing the observer that the image is not a projection but real. So, if a 3D image of your mother is projected on your retina, presumably you will be convinced that she is with you in the room.
To make this new augmented world a reality Magic Leap engineers must overcome the challenges of silicon photonics. The term refers to bringing optical components to silicon computer chips. Photonic components can carry large amounts of data at high speeds without heating up or degradation of the signal, but it’s difficult to integrate them with existing electronic components.
The involvement of Alibaba is an indication of Magic Leap’s intention of entering the Chinese market – a clear sign of self-belief and something big on the way. For its part, Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman, Joe Tsai had this to say: “We invest in forward-thinking, innovative companies like Magic Leap that are developing leading products and technologies. We believe Alibaba can both provide support to and learn from such a partner, and we look forward to working with the Magic Leap team.”