Augmented reality (AR) is positioned to figure prominently in the near future of computing, and well-financed startup Magic Leap is ready to toss its hat into the ring with a new SDK.
After unveiling its unique headset, Magic Leap promised we’d see developer tools in “early 2018.” It kept its word. The SDK allows builds via Unity and/or Unreal Engine 4. From Magic Leap:
Also we’re pleased to announce that, starting today, you can download Technical Preview builds of Unreal Engine 4 or Unity® to explore spatial computing on the Magic Leap platform. Teaming up with the world’s leading 3D engine providers, Epic Games and Unity Technologies, opens a clear pathway to creating on the Magic Leap platform and puts spatial computing development within reach for developers familiar with these engines.
Dubbed LuminSDK, Magic Leap’s development kit claims compatibility with “best in class” C APIs. As you might expect, its developer portal has plenty of tutorials, documentation, and a community. It’s also coming to the web:
— Mozilla MR (@mozillareality) March 19, 2018
With this move, Magic Leap has joined Apple, Google, and Microsoft as an AR platform provider. What it doesn’t yet provide is hardware. Magic Leap’s very odd goggles are still unavailable, listed only as “shipping in 2018.” That positions it behind others in the space, even as the shape of the market for AR headsets remains generally unclear. For example, Microsoft’s HoloLens is expensive, still not widely available beyond developers, and exists with little anticipatory fanfare.
Magic Leap does have a simulator, which is probably a not-very-good method for experiencing apps built with its SDK without owning hardware.
Google and Apple are both leaning into smartphones for augmented reality experiences, though Apple is rumored to be working on its own headset, likely for use with its ARKit framework that’s already found on iPhones and iPads. It’s unclear if that headset will be standalone or require a connection to an iOS device.
The tie that binds everything together is Unity and Unreal, which can be utilized for all of the aforementioned devices and platforms. Recently, Google opened up its Maps API for developers, with AR games and experiences built with Unity. Unity and Unreal are also great for developers who want to expand their games or apps to as many platforms as possible, especially for use in virtual reality (VR), which has become the also-ran to augmented reality.
One interesting side-note: Magic Leap isn’t referring to its offerings as “AR,” “VR,” or even “mixed reality” (which is the moniker that Microsoft has used for the HoloLens). Instead, it simply refers to its SDK and platform as “spatial computing.”