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Is Magic Leap Having a Nervous Breakdown or Making an Announcement?

By Rhett Jones on at

Magic Leap hasn’t had much good news to announce in, well, pretty much ever. But maybe that’s about to change? On Wednesday, the super-secretive, heavily funded mixed reality startup scrubbed its website of the eye-popping concept videos its known for. In their place, the company has uploaded a minimal redesign filled with Easter eggs apparently intended to remind us of the time the company gave the most bizarre TED talk in history.

First of all, if you haven’t seen the TED talk that Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz gave in 2012, stop what you’re doing and watch it right now.

Yeah, it’s a multimedia performance art piece and it’s great. I mean, it’s great if you want to just play some sort of practical joke on the TED audience, and you’re not really serious about competing with tech giants like Microsoft. But Magic Leap has raised $1.3 billion (£970 million) from the top investors in Silicon Valley, is reportedly picking up another $500 million (£372 million), and is edging towards a valuation of $6 billion (£4.46 billion). So far, all it’s had to show for it are some patent filings, employee exits, a sexual discrimination lawsuit, and an alleged prototype leak that no one was excited about.

All of that makes it especially head-scratching that its website seems to be wiping away all of the lofty expectations built up by videos of whimsical elephants you can hold in your hand, and whales exploding out of basketball courts, in favour of a complicated reminder of that time that Abovitz decided to creatively give everyone the finger.

Here’s how the Easter eggs break down: After the site change, some Redditors started sleuthing and found that its 404 page had a blinking light bulb that appears to be sending a message in Morse code. When decoded, the message seems to spell out “KEYWORD.”

In the few remarks that Abovitz made at TED, he presented “phydre” as “today’s ancient and magical keyword.” This word has some sort of astrological association with Uranus and a phonetic association with the Greek word for fudge. Get it? Fudge in Uranus. But let’s not get distracted. When you type “phydre” while you have the 404 page open, you get this message:

00110000 00110011 01101000 00100000 00110000 00110010 01101101 00100000 00110001 00110110 00101110 00110111 00110111 00110011 00110000 00110111 01110011 0001010 00101011 00110000 00110100 10110000 00100000 00110000 00110101 10000000110010 00100000 00110010 00110011 00101110 00110000 00110101 00111001 00110110 10000000110011 :)

Converting those numbers from binary to text outputs these coordinates: “03h 02m 16.77307s +04° 05′ 23.0596.”

A quick search for those coordinates brings up the Wikipedia page for Alpha Ceti, the second-largest star in the constellation Cetus, which is also known as “the whale.”

And that’s it. That’s what we know. But here’s where we have to use our interpretive powers. In northern latitudes, the best time to see Alpha Ceti is reportedly at around 9pm close to the December winter solstice. So, take all the references to the TED talk, add in the whale symbolism that is closely associated with Magic Leap, tack on an approximate time, and it’s possible that the company is signaling a presentation is coming in December.

There are also a couple other references to whales. Going to this URL with the binary for “whale” gives you a media player with whale sounds, and typing the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a) on the homepage plays the same whale audio.

All of this feels like Abovitz and company are just screwing with us. Or maybe it’s their way of announcing an event without having to commit to a specific time frame. Or maybe this is just what happens when your top marketing executive bails out. Or maybe Abovitz is really Andy Kaufman and this whole thing has been leading to a mass invocation of whales as a reminder that the true Magic Leap occurs in your imagination. At this point, it’s beginning to feel like that’s the only place that this device will ever see the light of day. [Magic Leap, Reddit via TechCrunch]


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