Earlier this year, Google handed out $25 cardboard virtual reality headsets as a tongue-in-cheek response to Facebook’s $2 billion Oculus acquisition. Google Cardboard turned out to be a pretty awesome product, and now the Internet giant is showing us that it’s even more interested in the future of virtual and augmented reality than we realized.
Google just wrapped up a $542 million round of financing for Magic Leap that includes investments from Andreessen Horowitz, Legendary Entertainment, Qualcomm Ventures and others. As part of the deal Android and Chrome chief Sundar Pichai will join the small company’s board of directors. Google’s Vice President of Corporate Development Don Harrison and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul E. Jacobs will also join the board as observers.
So what exactly does Magic Leap do? There’s still no straightforward answer to that question, though founder, president and CEO Rony Abovitz offers a few hints. “Magic Leap is going beyond the current perception of mobile computing, augmented reality, and virtual reality,” he said. “We are transcending all three, and will revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share and play.” Specifically, Magic Leap says it plans to “commercialize its proprietary mobile wearable system” and release software development tools with the money raised today.
The company’s website also offers a sense of Magic Leap’s ambitions with a series of bizarre images we’ve included in the slideshow up top. One picture shows a miniature elephant floating in a person’s hands while another depicts a massive whale flying over a crowded beach. There’s also a classroom picture, suggesting Magic Leap could have educational applications. Either way, the company must have convinced Google it has some interesting ideas, and with Mountain View’s support maybe we’ll see those plans take form.