Despite its ongoing struggles to give the metaverse traction, Meta hasn’t given up on virtual reality just yet. The company formerly known as Facebook is trying to obtain new technology that could make its mixed-reality headsets slimmer and more immersive.
According to the Financial Times, Meta is in discussions with Magic Leap over licensing the augmented reality company’s custom components, including its powerful lenses and software. It also reportedly wants the firm to manufacture its hardware as part of a multi-level contract.
Magic Leap is best known for its eponymous augmented reality glasses. The latest version of its goggles, the Magic Leap 2, offers a sweeping 70-degree field of view that lets wearers see bigger and taller virtual objects than rival products.
The hardware also looks far closer to glasses than the cumbersome virtual reality headsets being produced today. They are also as lightweight as a pair of headphones. The company is aiming to shave a further 50 per cent of volume from its next glasses and deliver a larger field of view.
However, Magic Leap’s pricey hardware — the Magic Leap 2 costs £3,337 — has prevented it from troubling the mainstream. As a result, the company was forced to pivot to creating products for businesses in late 2019. These days, it mostly pitches its tech to doctors for assistance during surgeries, or to engineers working from virtual holograms of complicated machinery.
In a blog post from last December, Magic Leap’s chief executive Peggy Johnson hinted that leasing tech to others could also be on the cards. She said the company had “received an incredible amount of interest from across the industry to license our IP and utilise our patented manufacturing process to produce optics for others seeking to launch their own mixed-reality technology”.
It’s easy to see why Meta would want the tech: the company is betting the farm on the metaverse, a future internet that blends the digital with the real world. As part of that vision, Meta has already released a handful of Quest VR headsets, including the premium Meta Quest Pro, which cost £1,500 before quickly being cut to £1,000.
News of the negotiation comes as Apple is readying its first mixed-reality headset: a luxury device rumoured to carry a price tag of $3,000 (~£2,422), expected to debut at next month’s WWDC developers conference. Anything Meta can do to counter Apple’s deep pockets and marketing might will certainly be helpful as it looks to remain the dominant player in the metaverse future it’s banked so much on.