AT&T will provide mobile data service for Magic Leap’s augmented reality glasses, the company has announced. The carrier is getting an exclusive partnership with the startup. In addition to selling the Magic Leap One glasses, it will let customers demo them at some stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — at least, once Magic Leap releases a still-unannounced consumer version of its product.
Magic Leap’s glasses have been hyped for years. The company has promised a mixed reality experience more practical and advanced than existing headsets, including Microsoft’s HoloLens. And although relatively few people have tried the product, Magic Leap is supposed to be releasing a “Creator Edition” later this year. AT&T’s press release confirms that the Creator Edition is still on track, but it notes that AT&T will only distribute the glasses once they come to consumers, something Magic Leap hasn’t offered a road map for yet. AT&T will offer wireless service and access to its “content platform,” apparently supplementing the partnerships Magic Leap has already made with the NBA and other entertainment groups.
For people who believe Magic Leap will — as AT&T puts it — “transform computing,” this will probably conjure memories of the carrier’s exclusivity deal for Apple’s iPhone. And a consumer Magic Leap One headset is supposed to cost about as much as a high-end smartphone, with additional models that are more expensive.
Unlike with the iPhone, however, there’s no indication that you’ll only be able to get the Magic Leap One through AT&T. (It’s just described as the “exclusive wireless distributor.”) The glasses are being pitched for home use at first, potentially because the tracking works better indoors, and definitely because you would look absolutely ridiculous wearing them outside. Many users might opt to just use Wi-Fi instead of mobile data.
Also, unlike these glasses, the iPhone existed when AT&T announced its partnership. But we’re getting closer to seeing exactly what the Magic Leap One can do. The company is set to reveal some computing specs and a product demo later today, and it’s already provided an overview of the Creator Edition hardware, which consists of the glasses, a motion controller, and a puck-like tethered computer that clips onto your pocket. Hopefully, this partnership isn’t a premature announcement, but a sign that Magic Leap has something substantive — and consumer-ready — on the way.