Magic Leap One Teardown: A Leap Forward for AR/VR?

A teardown of the Magic Leap One from iFixit looks inside the highly anticipated mixed reality headset. Does it have more going on under the hood than its competitors?
(Image source: iFixit)

After years of hype and speculation, the flagship mixed reality headset from Magic Leap, the Magic Leap One, is finally here. The hefty $2300 price tag alone was enough to shock potential consumers. But the most important question is still: How does the headset, once so shrouded in secrecy, stack up against competitors like Microsoft's HoloLens or the various offerings from Vuzix? The team at iFixit has come to lay bare the bones of the Magic Leap One and give us all a definitive look under the hood of the world's most-anticipated mixed reality headset.

First, a look at the components inside of the “Lightpack”—the external unit that handles all of the heavy processing for the headset:

The Magic Leap One's Lightpack contains an Nvidia Jetson TX2 system-on-a-chip at its heart. (Image source: iFixit)
  • NVIDIA Tegra X2 "Parker" SoC with NVIDIA Pascal GPU

  • 2x Samsung K3RG5G50MM-FGCJ 32 Gb LPDDR4 DRAM (64 Gb or 8 GB total)

  • Murata 1KL (likely Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module)

  • Nordic Semiconductor N52832 RF SoC

  • Renesas Electronics 9237HRZ buck-boost battery charger

  • Altera (owned by Intel) 10M08 MAX 10 field programmable gate array

  • Maxim Semiconductor MAX77620M power management IC and Parade Technologies 8713A bidirectional USB 3.0 redriver

  • Toshiba THGAF4T0N8LBAIR 128 GB NAND universal Flash storage

  • Spansion (now Cypress) FS128S 128 Mb quad SPI NOR Flash memory

  • Texas Instruments TPS65982 USB Type-C and USB power delivery controller

  • uPI Semiconductor uP1666Q two-phase buck controller

  • Texas Instruments INA3221 bi-directional voltage monitor

The Magic Leap One's core processor is an Nvidia Parker SoC (the Jetson Tegra TX2). Nvidia has touted this SoC for its applications in autonomous vehicles. Given Magic Leap One's need for fast sensor integration for mapping its external environment, however, iFixit speculates that Magic Leap likely found Parker to be an ideal solution for its needs as well. The fact that Magic Leap would also go for a GPU-based solution makes sense, given the graphics processing needs of the headset. (The Parker SoC is built around an Nvidia Pascal GPU.) According to specs from Nvidia, Parker can deliver up to 1.5 teraflops of performance.

Microsoft's HoloLens, by contrast, has a proprietary processor called a Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) at its core. The company hasn't released any full specs or benchmark tests for the HPU. But at the 2016 Hot Chips conference, Microsoft did unveil some specs of the processor, saying it is capable of performing about one trillion floating point operations per second (1 teraflop). This would make it about equivalent to (or slightly slower than) the Magic Leap SoC.

Other components of note show a heavy emphasis on power management and control. The Renesas Electronics 9237HRZ charger, Samsung K3RG5G50MM-FGCJ, and uPI Semiconductor uP1666Q are among several components with low power and small form factor devices in mind.

Another component worth discussing is at the heart of the “Lightwear:” the glasses that make up the Magic Leap One package. Specs for the Movidius MA2450 Myriad 2 vision processing unit (VPU) list AR/VR headsets as one of its primary product categories. The VPU also enables eye tracking, one of the most-anticipated features of the Magic Leap One. It will allow users to control and navigate in virtual environments with their eyes and can also track eye movements to better position and adjust perception of virtual objects.

The VPU gains further importance when discussing the “magic” behind the Magic Leap One. In the past, the company has talked about a chip called a “photonic lightfield chip" that is responsible for layering virtual images onto the real world. Assuming that the photonic lightfield chip wasn't pulled out entirely for inclusion in later models, further inspection leads one to speculate that—rather than some new proprietary chip technology—the photonic lightfield chip is actually the Movidius VPU (or the VPU and some combination of other components).

The Magic Leap One's display technology is based on waveguide technology—the same technique used by Vuzix's AR glasses as well as the HoloLens. A waveguide is essentially an intermediary device between the wearer's eyes and the hardware that creates a digital image. It “guides” light waves based on their frequency.

That said, the Magic Leap One enjoys a slightly larger field of view than the HoloLens ( 40 degrees horizontal by 30 degrees vertical compared to 30 degrees horizontal and 17 degrees vertical on the HoloLens). The Vuzix M300 enterprise-level AR glasses fall behind both with a 16.7-degree diagonal field of view.

Overall, from a hardware perspective, the Magic Leap One hasn't made any of the major innovations that the company was hyping in the years leading up to its release. In terms of its computing power and performance, it does outperform devices currently on the market—but not to such a significant degree that it could be looked at as a truly groundbreaking innovation. Still, there are a lot of smart design and engineering decisions that have gone into the Magic Leap One that could point to some significant improvements with future models. Whether those will be the big “leap” everyone has been looking for, or just another iteration on par with competitor products, remains to be seen.

Visit iFixit for a full teardown of the Magic Leap One.

What's your impression of Magic Leap and its technology thus far? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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