Recode tried to warn you over and over that Silicon Valley found love in a hopeless place (Florida). Now it's official. Google announced that it led a $542 million round in Magic Leap, an augmented reality startup run by wackadoo supreme Rony Abovitz.
That's Abovitz in the space suit above giving a talk at TEDxSarasota—apparently the trippiest TEDx of them all.
More than a handful of venture capital and private equity firms also participated in the round, including Obvious Ventures (from Twitter cofounder Ev Williams), Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and David Petraeus' new hangout, KKR.
All 542 of those millions were handed over before Magic Leap launched a product. But Recode says investors are betting big because they think it could have advantages over leading virtual reality companies like Oculus Rift:
But the thrust is that [Magic Leap] is working on hardware and software to deliver "augmented reality" that adds computer-generated images on top of what you're seeing naturally to create convincing optical illusions. The company's website shows off images of a baby elephant that appears to be hovering above someone's hands and a submarine floating above a city street.
Sources say a key part of Magic Leap's plans involves a wearable device that will track users' eyeballs and project images onto them. We're also told the company intends to use an infrared camera similar to the Microsoft Kinect to create a 3-D understanding of the world around the wearer — so the virtual objects can appear to go both in front of and behind things.
This is called "object occlusion," and along with the capability for depth perception, it's supposedly a leg up Magic Leap would have over today's virtual reality players like Oculus VR, which Facebook bought for $2 billion earlier this year.
Who's the Florida fella trying to augment your reality? Abovitz previously cofounded a surgical robotics company, then sold it for $1.65 billion. But he's much stranger than that successful sale might imply. Kevin Roose has filled an entire cabinet with the man's eccentricities:
Abovitz was once a semi-prolific blogger, writing at length about topics as varied as wheatgrass, Saddam Hussein, and vegetarianism. Futurism figures heavily in his writings, which sound a bit like those of a college philosophy major who hit the bong a little too hard.
I think that our society is drifting off into some strange new lands. What will become of us networked, blogging, ipodded, wireless, bluetoothed, myspaced, googled freaks?
Does wikki = democracy in the truest sense? What of Brazil and free culture and remixing and Lessig going on and on about these things?
What of Richard Stallman and all things Linux? What say the Chinese when they unfurl their might on the $99 PC?
Will the New People understand the past, or will it all be a single moment in time, remixed at will, all here, right now, right now?
What is software? If it can wirelessly trasmit from blackberry to ipaq to pc, why can't our souls float as they will?
When we have control of stem cells and DNA - what will we become?
Really puts that space suit in context.
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