The internet is abuzz with chatter about Magic Leap, a start-up that is prepping a product called "Magic Leap One: Creator Edition," a mixed-reality headset it dubs "Lightwear." The company hails it as a tool "for creators who want to change how we experience the world" and expect it to ship in 2018. Hold up, early adopters: There is no pre-order system yet, but you can sign up for the e-mail list via Magic Leap's website.
Pitchfork writer Marc Hogan went to Magic Leap's Florida offices to test its Lightwear goggles. Magic Leap has been working with popular Icelandic prog-rock group Sigur Rós over the last four years on an app called Tónandi, which is projected to become available at some indeterminate point. Hogan describes it thus:
The app aims to complement the band’s dreamy aesthetic: Its name is a made-up Icelandic portmanteau that literally means “sound spirit,” which is represented in the VR environment as a multitude of lifelike organisms. The demo I try out at their sprawling facility lasts about eight to 10 minutes and incorporates new music the band recorded especially for the app. The ambition is to conjure up an entire ecosystem out of sound...
Obviously, there’s music and video, but this is not a music video either. The Tónandi experience is more like hiking or scuba-diving in your house while also being surrounded by supernatural beings. It’s appealingly disorienting. By the end, orchestration is sizzling—I can almost feel it—through my fingertips.
There is potential here, says Sigur Rós bassist Georg Hólm, to rethink how musicians release albums. The band's guitarist/vocalist Jónsi Birgisson goes further, telling Hogan, “This could maybe replace everything that we know: phones, TVs, computers…” Hogan conjectures that Tónandi could bring an unprecedented cinematic quality to the music-listening experience.
Will Lightware and Tónandi be a hyperbolic letdown or the mind-blowing future of music interaction/consumption? While Hogan appears to side with the latter view, the skeptics (Google Glass fresh in their memories) are giving the optimists a run for their speculative money.