LEAP OF FAITH

Looks like Magic Leap is working on another mysterious buzzword technology

Magic Leap is apparently working on a virtual reality technology that’s so revolutionary it justifies valuing the company at $4.5 billion, even though almost no one has seen this mysterious tech, or knows exactly what it will do.

But according to a lawsuit filed by Magic Leap on May 26 and first uncovered by MIT Technology Review, the company isn’t satisfied with working on one of the most talked-about technologies of the year; it also appears to be working on some sort of robot.

Magic Leap filed the suit against two former employees, including its head of computer vision and AI work, Gary Bradski, for starting a competing company while still employed by Magic Leap. The suit alleges that the two employees used company time to work on a separate venture for at least a year.

The lawsuit contains three references to robotics, and specifically Magic Leap’s feelings that whatever Bradski and vice president of special projects Adrian Kaehler were up to competed with Magic Leap’s own robotics work:

Magic Leap’s Proprietary Technologies are not limited to its head-mounted virtual retinal display and extend to many different applications and devices, including, but not limited to, robotics.

For example, Bradski was aware of and involved in projects and plans that involved deep learning techniques for robotics.

Despite expressly agreeing as above, Magic Leap is informed and believes that Bradski, aided by Kaehler, have engaged in business activities related to their new company that directly or indirectly compete with Magic Leap’s business and proposed business of Magic Leap with some deep learning techniques utilizing robotics.

Based on the short video clips Magic Leap has released to date, it could be argued that the sorts of technologies it wants to bring to VR would intrinsically require computer vision and artificial intelligence. For example, in this demonstration of a game the company wants to build, it would need a vision system to inform the computer of its surroundings and to be able to recognize and identify objects so that the game could interact with them.

This sort of technology could well form the building blocks of a vision system for a robot that can similarly identify its surroundings (as many other researchers are currently exploring), but that doesn’t necessarily mean Magic Leap is building a robot. That being said, the lawsuit’s second reference to robotics does suggest that Bradski was at least exploring what Magic Leap could be doing at the intersection of AI and robotics.

Quartz has reached out to Magic Leap and will update this post as necessary.

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