When was the last time you had an experience blow your mind?

Was it a movie? A roller coaster? A theater experience?

For me, it was a recent visit to a full virtual reality (VR) arcade with my son. Using the most current virtual reality equipment, we played dodgeball and fought ogres and competed in arrow duels with each other. The images were crisp and clean and amazingly real. At one point, I even found myself laying on the ground to avoid virtual arrows.

Now, I am no stranger to VR or augmented reality (AR). I have toyed with it for years, from sampling early iterations of the Oculus to running through the park hunting Pokemon and watching VR on cheap virtual reality headset.

But nothing in my frugal technology ways could compare to the arcade.

For some, this technology and experience is nothing new, but for far many more, the idea of VR and AR is still only something we read about. These systems are far too expensive for most families and even pop-up arcades are pricey at $25 to $50 per half hour.

So, like every cutting-edge technology, it becomes a waiting game for late adopters like me for the price to drop.

The good news is that a major announcement this week seems to signal that the wait may be shorter than expected. 

AT&T announced that it has entered into an agreement with Magic Leap, the highly mysterious startup said to be developing some of the industry's leading augmented reality technology. Magic Leap has already secured $2.3 billion in investments from Alibaba, Google and JPMorgan, and according to TechCrunch, was valued at $6.3 billion after a recent investment round in March.

Why would AT&T invest in a business already worth $6.3 billion? Simple -- it knows the technology is ready for consumption, and it wants the exclusive distribution rights for its customers when the first products are introduced this summer.

The deal says as much about Magic Leap as it does about AT&T.  According to AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan, "We're designing and offering the future of entertainment and connectivity, and this exclusive arrangement -- in combination with our 5G leadership position -- will open up new opportunities and experiences."

It is clear that this AR technology will most likely run on data, and with a 5G network behind it, one has to ponder the possibilities.

Moreover, Magic Leap has many investors, including Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment, and recently partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which according to Magic Leap is to "look at how spatial computing can change the way audiences experience theatre."

And AT&T is fresh off closing deals to buy TimeWarner for $85 billion and, more recently, ad firm AppNexus for $2 billion

Put the pieces together, and it is clear that Magic Leap's new headsets will go way beyond playing games with ogres and virtual arrows. It promises to be a much richer and realistic experience. 

Magic Leap's first headsets are scheduled to be available this summer, and according to the company's president and CEO Rony Abovitz should cost about as much as a "higher-end mobile phone to higher-end tablet." 

While there are already VR and AR products on the market, few have proven to be as anticipated -- and elusive -- as those being developed by Magic Leap. And with a new distribution partner -- for good or bad -- a summer delivery date, and a price range comparable to a new mobile phone, we can all get ready to enjoy this technology in our homes -- or in theaters, parks, underwater or outer space.

One thing is for certain. However and wherever we use it, I expect the new headsets and the experience will provide us with the next answer to the question, "When was the last time you had an experience blow your mind?"

What do you think? Are you excited about this new technology? Share your thoughts with others in the comments below.

Published on: Jul 13, 2018
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