Stealth Startup Magic Leap Officially Opens its Austin Office

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Andy Fouche, vice president of public relations for Magic Leap, kicks off the press conference at the company's new Austin office.

Andy Fouche, vice president of public relations for Magic Leap, kicks off the press conference at the company’s new Austin office.

A few years ago, Michael Klug left his job as co-founder and chief technology officer at Zebra Imaging.

At Zebra, Klug worked for 17 years on its dynamic 3D holographic and light-field display products. He helped the company raise money and launch its products.

Klug, who has also worked at the MIT Media Laboratory, was looking for his next challenge. That’s when he joined Magic Leap, a highly stealth technology company. Wired Magazine has called Magic Leap “the world’s most secretive startup.” Magic Leap is creating mixed reality technology that overlays virtual reality onto the real world and although it’s not the only company tackling this technology it is doing the best job, according to the Wired article. And that has helped Magic Leap raise $1.4 billion so far, Wired reports.

Klug, who heads up Magic Leap’s Austin office, will not provide any details on its product other than to say it is aimed at consumers and it will be a wearable device that includes goggles or some kind of glasses and it is transformative technology. On his LinkedIn profile, Klug, who is listed as vice president of advanced photonics for Magic Leap, says he is “constructing a rocket ship for the mind.”

Magic Leap has applications in gaming and entertainment, but it is also looking to tackle personal computing and communications. Its wearable device seeks to become something we rely on as much as our cell phones and if it’s done right, it will become a normal part of our everyday lives. That’s why Magic Leap could become the next big transformative technology company.

Magic Leap is creating technology that is going to change the way we work, live and play, said Barbary Brunner, president of the Austin Technology Council.

“It’s about blurring the lines between the virtual and the real either partially or completely,” Brunner said. “This is a technology that once it’s perfected is going to impact every part of our lives.”

On Wednesday morning, Magic Leap officially opened its 23,000 square foot Austin office, which includes 5,000 square feet of clean room space. The clean room space gives off a strange orange glow and makes Magic Leap’s operations look all the more mysterious. Signs posted around the office warn visitors not to take photos. But through the windows, visitors can see workers dressed in white “bunny suits” working on components of Magic Leap’s product. The office currently has 40 employees but the company is hiring and plans to expand.

“Obviously, Austin is really critical for us. The most significant R&D and manufacturing setup is happening right here,” said Brian Wallace, chief marketing officer with Magic Leap. “As with all things with Magic Leap I can’t say to the public exactly what we are doing here. We have some of the best and brightest minds literally in Austin right now helping to bring Magic Leap’s vision to the world.”

The main manufacturing operations will be in Plantation, Florida, in an old Motorola plant, Klug said. The Austin operations grew out of Magic Leap’s original office, a garage belonging to Zebra Imaging in Pflugerville. That’s where Klug worked with a few other people. Magic Leap’s operations are based in Dania, Florida, just outside Fort Lauderdale. But Klug didn’t want to leave Austin. And that’s how the Florida-Texas Magic Leap connection began. Magic Leap also has a software office in Mountain View, California.

Magic Leap's Austin office with its logo, the leaper, no one really knows what it is. It kind of looks like a combination frog, smiley face and alien space ship.

Magic Leap’s Austin office with its logo, the leaper, no one really knows what it is. It kind of looks like a combination frog, smiley face and alien space ship.

Magic Leap’s Austin office is located at 9801 Metric Blvd. on the opposite end of a shared building with Zebra Imaging.

Congressman Michael Thomas McCaul, R-Austin, attended the event Wednesday. Previously he toured the facility in Florida and was blown away by Magic Leap’s technology, he said.

“3D virtual technology…basically living in that space,” McCaul said. He is chairman of the U.S. House of Representative’s homeland security committee and he’s on the science, space and technology committee as well. He wanted to attend the Magic Leap office opening to show his support for what they do, he said. It’s a $10 million investment and it’s creating tech jobs in Austin, McCaul said.

There is a wide range of national security applications for Magic Leap’s technology, McCaul said.

To some it may be surprising to have one of the next big things in tech being created outside of Silicon Valley. But having a skunk works operation based in Florida does have some roots in computer history. In fact, Boca Raton is where a group of IBM engineers fled from the New York IBM headquarters to create the IBM PC, which debuted in 1981.

So when will Magic Leap introduce its transformative mixed realty products? The only thing the company would say is soon.

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