Sensible Leap: Making the Metaverse Feel Real Amid the Buzz

Person wearing AR headset

For Peggy Johnson, the metaverse has new applications in three industries right now: healthcare, defense, and manufacturing. For healthcare, surgeons in operating rooms will be able to see vitals overlaid on the patient without taking their eyes away from the procedure. In defense, the military will use the metaverse for training and for command-and-control duty in live battle. In manufacturing, frontline workers will get the information they need at the assembly line while staying hands-free. These applications represent a $39 billion opportunity by 2025, she says.  

Johnson is the CEO of Magic Leap, a Miami startup that makes augmented reality (AR) headsets. She gave her metaverse explanation while presenting the second version of the company’s product this month. It’s a significant improvement over the first headset version, which failed to catch on by 2020. That’s when Ms. Johnson took over. Since then, their technology has improved with a bigger “field of view,” the part of the headset that projects data over what you see, and better optics for clearer type and more realistic graphics. Those improvements made the new applications in healthcare, defense, and manufacturing possible.  

The metaverse needs those applications if it’s ever going to take off. So far, the much-hyped technology has attracted large investment but shows little lift. Facebook has made a splash with their name change to Meta, and all the tech giants are investing heavily to bring you the metaverse. For all the buzz, they have not spelled out the concrete benefits they intend to offer with the same clarity as Ms. Johnson. Other than her applications, the other clear use of the metaverse is gaming.  

Meta is the leader in gaming with a virtual reality (VR) headset called Quest 2. Quest and other VR headsets only allow you to see whatever is projected into the headset itself. Thanks to that, Quest 2 offers a realistic experience in which you feel like you are transported to wherever the headset puts you. That makes it a personal experience as opposed to the business applications of Magic Leap. Prices are also different: Quest 2 is $299 vs. $2,295 for Magic Leap 2. 

To this, Johnson replies that many users do not want to be locked into the metaverse. Rather, the ability to see the physical world enables a broader set of applications than pure VR offers. She says that Magic Leap’s technology provides accurate placement of virtual objects on top of the physical world and includes a “dimming” effect to precisely manage the barrier between the virtual and the real. All this in a headset that is 20% lighter and 50% smaller than the company’s first product.  

These technological improvements help explain the industry’s enthusiasm for Magic Leap 2. But it is Ms. Johnson’s explanations that have made the metaverse more real for us at Verb