Meta Platforms, previously known as Facebook, is reportedly in discussions with augmented reality (AR) startup Magic Leap to secure a multiyear agreement. The move signifies Meta’s ongoing commitment to its ambitious metaverse vision, a project that seeks to create an online universe filled with digital avatars.
According to individuals familiar with the preliminary talks, the partnership with Magic Leap would likely involve intellectual property licensing and contract manufacturing in North America. The goal is to facilitate the development of mainstream AR products, an essential building block for Meta’s metaverse concept.
Florida-based Magic Leap has specialized in producing customized components, such as high-tech lenses and associated software. These technologies are likely to be crucial in building a convincing metaverse. Notably, the startup has garnered attention for its sophisticated “waveguides” technology that allows thin glass in front of users’ eyes to project realistic images at varying depths.
Despite the ongoing discussions, it’s been emphasized that the partnership isn’t expected to produce a specific joint Meta-Magic Leap headset. Both Meta and Magic Leap have opted to not comment on these ongoing negotiations.
The timing of these negotiations coincides with Apple’s impending announcement of its own “mixed reality” device. Tech behemoths like Meta and Apple are increasingly betting on AR and virtual reality (VR) headsets as the future of computing, rivaling traditional mobile devices.
However, the metaverse project hasn’t been without its critics. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced increasing investor scrutiny for the $10 billion annual investment into the metaverse project. Critics argue that it may take years for the project to yield profits. This is particularly notable as the company grapples with economic instability and an advertising downturn, leading to a significant restructure and job cuts.
The potential partnership with Magic Leap could also be seen as a strategic move amidst rising pressure for Silicon Valley companies to reduce their dependence on Chinese manufacturing. As Meta shifts focus to AR and VR hardware, this issue becomes even more pertinent.
Magic Leap has had an interesting journey. After its first headset, the Magic Leap 1, released in 2018, had disappointing sales, the company switched its focus from consumers to enterprise applications. In 2020, the company explored a sale, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund taking a controlling stake in 2021.
Most recently, Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson hinted at a new revenue stream, stating that the company had received significant interest from industry players looking to license Magic Leap’s intellectual property and utilize their patented manufacturing process.
In light of these developments, the proposed partnership between Meta and Magic Leap could prove pivotal in shaping the future of augmented reality and the impending metaverse.