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Secretive augmented reality startup Magic Leap suffered another PR blow yesterday when Business Insider published a photo alleged to be a recent prototype of the company's futuristic tech.
The picture, showing a large and janky computer hanging from a person's back and wired to a pair of glasses, seemingly confirmed reports that Magic Leap — which has raised $1.4 billion to date — was struggling to shrink its product to a consumer-friendly size. In a post about "fake tech" last December, columnist Phil Baker likened Magic Leap to Theranos.
But hold your horses, one of the company's investors says. Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans says the tech is real, just not ready to ship yet.
"There are a bunch of great people at great companies working on AR," Evans tweeted. "No one is shipping a final product yet."
That's likely a reference to Magic Leap's main competitor, the Microsoft HoloLens, which is shipping a compact set of glasses — but only to businesses and software developers, not to consumers yet.
Evans, who has received demos of Magic Leap's work in progress, said that eventually, it will wow consumers the way early smartphones did:
He also dissed critics of the leaked picture, saying "gloating about any negative news (real or fake) about a startup is just as bad as uncritical praise. Maybe worse."
Gloating aside: As an investor, Evans has an interest in encouraging more uncritical praise over criticism of real problems, since the latter might dent Magic Leap's $4.5 billion valuation.
Another Andreessen partner, Kyle Russell, tweeted on Friday that the device that popularized multitouch, the iPhone, also went through an ungainly prototype phase:
— By Eric Johnson, Re/code.net.
CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.