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Peggy Johnson interview: How Magic Leap is finding traction with its enterprise pivot

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Magic Leap has gone by way of a whirlwind in the previous year. Founded in 2010 by Rony Abovitz, the firm set out to be a pioneer in augmented reality and mixed reality technologies. Abovitz raised $2.6 billion in a number of rounds and created the Magic Leap One, a mixed reality headset that debuted in August 2018.



But sales have been slow for the $2,295 device, as shoppers didn’t dive into the pricey tech. Finally, in April 2020, Magic Leap decided to shut down its customer division and laid off about 1,000 workers, or half its workforce. In May 2020, Abovitz announced he would replace himself as CEO (even though staying on the board) just as the firm got a important lifeline with a $350 million raise. In September 2020, the board appointed Peggy Johnson, a former Microsoft executive, as CEO, as element of a strategy to double down on the enterprise markets.



She spoke at the VivaTech occasion last week about how there are large possibilities for Magic Leap and mixed reality in healthcare, and she pointed to an operation at the University of California at Davis exactly where surgeons made use of Magic Leap headsets to strategy for the separation of two conjoined babies. The operation turned out to be a accomplishment, and it showed the worth of visualization that mixed reality devices can provide. Johnson also believes the firm can prosper from 3D visualization in manufacturing and the public sector.

Johnson is finding prepared to launch the Magic Leap Two device later this year. She stated it will be about half the size of Magic Leap One. It will be about 20 % lighter in weight, and it will have about 3 to 4 occasions the processing energy. The rendering and photos are super higher fidelity, she stated.

And that will be a important accomplishment, as rivals such as Apple and Facebook have however to launch their mixed reality technologies, even though Microsoft is on its second version of the HoloLens. I asked Johnson how she can compete against these other businesses that have billions of dollars at their disposal for investigation in this extended-haul competitive battle. I got an exciting answer.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

VentureBeat: What was it like becoming CEO of Magic Leap?

Peggy Johnson: I had had the chance to see the technologies prior to. I visited Magic Leap when I was nonetheless at Microsoft. I had the tour and understood exactly where they have been in the development of the technologies. I knew it was strong. But there required to be some focus. Somebody had to narrow the target markets. It was an exciting time, thinking about the pandemic. The only particular person I’d ever met in particular person was Rony Abovitz, the prior CEO. But it was incredibly clarifying. I knew what required to be carried out. When I got to the firm that was my key focus, finding the firm to just work on a handful of places of enterprise. Not even across enterprise, but just a handful of places of enterprise — overall health care, manufacturing, and the public sector.

VentureBeat: What was it about these certain places that made the most sense? Had you currently made progress there?

Johnson: We had made some progress there. I will say, even though, all 3 of these places have been currently used to heads-up displays in some format. Surgeons put on them in the course of operations. Certainly public sector personnel and military are comfy with HUDs. Often you see them in manufacturing environments. Those have been going to be the less difficult lift, we felt, to show people what AR could do for them. That has been the case. Those are the ones exactly where we’ve seen the earliest traction, across these 3 sectors.

There are 3 use circumstances we focus on. I do not know if you heard this earlier. That is education, remote assistance–when you do not have the skilled nearby they can see what you see. And then last, any sort of 3D visualization, from CAD systems to design and style teams, that sort of factor. Those are the 3 key places of focus for us.

VentureBeat: The technologies was nonetheless type of pricey, but I suppose these applications have so substantially advantage that these are exactly where buyers are prepared to spend for what you have now.

Johnson: Correct. You’re spot on, yes. There’s a return on investment for buyers in these places that tends to make sense. If you have a tangible ROI, there’s adoption, and then that drives volume, which will drive additional adoption as we can make the solution smaller sized, lighter, quicker, less costly. In truth, our Magic Leap 2 device, which is queued up to launch into our early access plan in Q4 of this year, has these components to it. It’s about half the size of Magic Leap One. It’s about 20 % lighter in weight. It has about 3 to 4 occasions the processing energy. The rendering and photos are super higher fidelity.

Then we also have doubled the field of view, which is a incredibly critical metric. It’s the palette that you can paint your digital content on. That has been an area–it’s been type of a discomfort point in AR up till now. We have doubled it, which has been a large improvement. All of these places are factors that will lend themselves to all day, daily use, which is what enterprise has been asking for, a device that you can place on your head in the morning and put on all day extended.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

VentureBeat: Can you spell out a bit more about one of these applications, what individuals essentially do with it?

Johnson: Sure. We have been working by way of the pandemic, which has been fairly a catalyst for AR in basic, due to the fact businesses are hunting for these remote working options. We’ve worked with a quantity of businesses on education. They can get their education teams collectively. A lot of occasions corporates will fly in new trainees and residence them in their education facilities. They have to accommodate them for a week or quite a few weeks. We had businesses attain out to us, such as Farmer’s Insurance, that wanted to continue to train their claims adjusters in the course of the pandemic. They have an ISV companion named Talespin, and they came up with a education plan that permitted Farmer’s Insurance to continue to train from wherever their new claims adjusters lived.

That’s one use case in education that frankly can save businesses revenue. They’re not flying everybody to a physical place. It also saves time. I think that even post-COVID, these sorts of scenarios will continue. It’s not just business enterprise continuity in the course of the pandemic, but post-pandemic there’s a lot of savings in time and sources.

VentureBeat: That was the “Firing Barry” one, as well, correct? The Talespin people? Do you try to remember that application that they showed off?

Johnson: No, I do not know that one. But it have to have been prior to my time. I’m nonetheless understanding about the previous. Some of the other use circumstances that we’re working with–Ericsson has an exciting manufacturing application exactly where they are replicating the Japanese gemba walks, exactly where a manager will stroll by way of a factory hunting for places of improvement. Now the gemba walks can be carried out with augmentation. You can look at a piece of machinery in a factory and all the statistics can be digitally visible as you stroll previous it. They’re physically cemented in a particular position in the factory. Then you go to the next machine and these characters, the efficiency of the machines, can be highlighted. You can keep the machines. You can run videos that show you how to keep them. You can contact in an specialist if you have a issue in the factory that you haven’t addressed prior to. They have some exciting improvements to the workflow procedure applying Magic Leap.

Another exciting one, and we can send you the video, is with our companion Brainlab, an ISV. They do 3D scans of MRIs and CAT scans. They have integrated it into Magic Leap One, and they’ll integrate it into Magic Leap Two when it comes out later this year. They’ve produced the capacity to train physicians applying 3D scans. An exciting video we have from them, they have been working with UC Davis in California to start the separation of some conjoined twins who have been essentially conjoined at the brain. They can place the 3D image of the brain in the middle of the area, and the 30-particular person surgical group all educated on it. The surgery took spot last fall and was prosperous. They have been in a position to show the parents what was going to come about to their children. It was a terrific outcome and a thing that just about every single hospital about the world does every single day, mapping out the surgical pathways that the surgeon will take in the course of an operation. In this case, 30 individuals got to look at the image collectively, ask inquiries, and see specifically what was going to come about ahead of the operation. They educated for months on the device.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

VentureBeat: Pulling out to look at the complete business, what’s it like to operate in this atmosphere exactly where the tech giants are so interested? They’re spending billions of dollars on these mixed reality investments. Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and other people. What is that competitive atmosphere like?

Johnson: Well, one edge we have is we’ve been undertaking this for 10 years now. We’ve been innovating, establishing in this space. AR is incredibly really hard. It’s a difficult optics issue to resolve for, to incredibly precisely spot that digital content in the physical realm. It’s a thing that, in comparison to VR, is far more difficult. That’s exactly where Magic Leap excels.

I will say, possessing all the other large tech businesses in the field now is a terrific validation of the technologies. It’s been excellent for us. You hear more about it in the press. People are more familiar with it. During the pandemic, they turned to us to look for remote working options due to the fact we had them. It’s been a positive to have more people in the business placing sources into this space due to the fact it does validate the industry for AR.

VentureBeat: How do you transition to this next generation? What’s the strategy for it?

Johnson: The initially generation was constructed to be a customer device. In some methods it didn’t fairly hit that industry, but largely due to the fact it is a bigger device. There wasn’t a lot of content for it. So how do we do factors differently with Magic Leap Two. We’ve made a smaller sized device, an all-day wearable. It enhanced on the metrics that our enterprise buyers have been asking us for — smaller sized, lighter, quicker, less costly. But the more critical factor is that the ecosystem about it, the neighborhood of apps, incredibly various than customer clearly–a lot of these applications and the devs currently have a understanding of AR. They fully grasp what integrating into an AR platform can do to supercharge their apps. We’ve been working with a quantity of ISVs and we’ll continue to construct that neighborhood top up to the launch of Magic Leap Two.

Largely they’re the ISV partners of our buyers. For instance, UC Davis made use of Brainlab. We worked with Brainlab to integrate their application onto our device. Farmer’s Insurance made use of Talespin. There’s a smaller ISV up in Seattle named Taqtile. They do a lot in manufacturing and industrial environments. For instance, enhancing the workflow procedure of a frontline employee who does a particular set of tasks every single day inside a factory. They can have this amplification of their skills with the use of our AR device.

Rony Abovitz is the founder of Sun and Thunder.

Image Credit: Sun and Thunder

VentureBeat: Is the challenge correct now to preserve the tech moving forward, but take the fees out?

Johnson: Correct, yeah, and to make it smaller sized, lighter, quicker, to continue down that path. I normally believe the analogy is incredibly substantially like the mobile phone business. In the starting, the phones have been large and pricey. They have been largely only sold to enterprise, buyers who could rationalize the investment. Salespeople who worked from the road and had to verify in with the workplace all through the day used to have to cease, locate a parking spot, locate a phone booth. Now they could just contact from their vehicles. It didn’t matter that the phones have been larger and more pricey due to the fact there was a tangible ROI.

That’s the location on the curve that we’re at with AR correct now. The space that is the most viable is enterprise AR. That’s why we have our focus there. We can provide that incredibly tangible ROI, no matter whether it is savings in education fees or efficiencies that can be introduced in the operational theater. Those are the places we’re focused on.

VentureBeat: For the technologies, do you believe you can take it outdoors? Or will you handle to have excellent applications that remain indoors?

Johnson: We have some tactics we’re working on for Magic Leap Two to provide for a far better outside encounter. It’s accurate that there are a lot of scenarios that need to have that, especially in the military space, exactly where they’re attempting to simulate education outdoors. The device itself requires to be in a position to manage these circumstances. We’ll have more to share on that when we get closer to our early access plan. But it is absolutely a issue we’ve heard about from enterprise customers that we aim to resolve with Magic Leap Two.

VentureBeat: What are the ambitions on the economic side? Do you really feel like it is nonetheless probable to raise more revenue, or at this point do you attempt to zero in on profitability from exactly where you are?

Johnson: Right now we’re steady. We’ve stabilized the firm from a year ago when they have been going by way of a period of transition. We’re comfy with our existing spot. We’re on the eve of launching Magic Leap 2 to early adopters in Q4 of this year. For the time getting we’re comfy that we can raise the funds we need to have to manufacture the solution and sell the solution.

Magic Leap 1 headset is $2,995.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

VentureBeat: You had some management adjustments not too long ago.

Johnson: We did. You should really look at these as just the organic progression of any firm going by way of a transition. We’ve also brought in quite a few executives. If you look a tiny bit earlier in the announcement chain, you will see we’ve brought in executives from a selection of businesses who’ve helped us in our new focus on the enterprise location. We’ve brought in a CFO, a chief business enterprise officer, a chief solution officer, and a chief application and cloud officer. All of them have been incredibly additive to our senior leadership group, and all are as excited and passionate about the AR space as I am. It’s been a fantastic group. That’s on prime of a terrific, world-class talent base that we had at the firm when I arrived.

VentureBeat: Did you get any exciting reaction to the speak today?

Johnson: It was fantastic to be in a position to present Magic Leap’s new path to a relatively big audience. We do not know the numbers however. I’m sure we’ll speak about them quickly at VivaTech. It’s a hybrid conference. We’ll have 5,000 individuals right here, but definitely a lot of more on-line. They have been excited to hear about existing use circumstances that are delivering ROI correct now. I believe that resonated with the audience. Sometimes AR is place in the bucket of, “Oh, it’s years away.” That’s just not accurate. For enterprise AR it is correct now.

VentureBeat: If you look back at Rony’s legacy, how do you see that? What would you like your legacy to be?

Johnson: Rony’s legacy, he was an astounding visionary. 10 years ago, when the firm began, he saw the guarantee of AR, and then he went to work establishing the technologies. He’ll normally have that legacy in this space. He was the initially. What I’d like my legacy to be is the focus that I’ve brought to the firm on the early adopter markets. We have to focus on the places that are going to locate that true, tangible ROI in the close to term. Just like mobile phones, we can get to some volume, which will then drive additional integration of the silicon, smaller sized componentry, smaller sized devices.

VentureBeat: Any last comments you’d like to add to the conversation?

Johnson: No, just that we’re fairly excited about Magic Leap Two coming out. I’m so proud of the group that constructed this solution in the course of a worldwide pandemic and kept it on track. We will be speaking about partners for that early access plan in the coming months. Stay tuned on that front.

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