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Wayfair bets that Magic Leap One can enhance shopping

The Magic Leap One has arrived for developers and at least one enterprise thinks it has some business potential.

Video: We tried Magic Leap One

The Magic Leap One augmented reality headset has launched for developers, creators, and enterprises for $2,295 -- and online furniture retailer Wayfair is betting the device can lead to new shopping experiences.

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CNET's Scott Stein toured Magic Leap's headquarters, played with the headset, and offered up his first hands-on. His conclusion is that the Magic Leap One isn't vaporware.

He said:

It's real, and it works. Whether it's more than a developer prototype, and whether it amazes you, is another story. My initial experience didn't blow me away, despite Magic Leap's promises. And yet, I came away thinking it's the best AR headset experience I've had to date.

When I read the tech sector's account of the Magic Leap launch I couldn't help but laugh. The cynic in me looked at the price, looked at the ecosystem disadvantages compared to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon Web Services, and chuckled.

But I'll play along for now. Wayfair sure is.

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Wayfair has been on the augmented, virtual and mixed reality bandwagon for a while. And for good reason: Furniture shopping online requires some visualization, and the ability to place goods into a setting. Amazon offers similar capabilities.

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So, yes, there is a good retail case for AR. But Wayfair may be early relative to other enterprises. In its statement, Wayfair noted the following:

  • The company's AR experience will be powered by Magic Leap's browser called Hello.
  • Wayfair's experience will ship with the Magic Leap One and be a featured bookmark.
  • Within Hello, Wayfair can allow you to place the browser anywhere in your space with on tap.
  • You can then browse furniture and decor and pull items into your space and try different layouts. "With Magic Leap, we are setting a new precedent for a truly immersive shopping experience leveraging the power of mixed reality and the ease of web," said Steve Conine, co-chairman and co-founder of Wayfair.

It all sounds wonderful until you consider that the Magic Leap One will have limited availability. Wayfair's AR bet is sound, but the Magic Leap bandwagon may take a while to pay off -- if ever. But if AR does become the future of shopping, Wayfair will have a front row seat.

The real question is whether these various mixed reality platforms are the way to go versus something simple and browser-based. Amazon Web Services is simplifying AR development with browser based technologies, and it's likely that enterprises will go for that approach first. It's unclear that Magic Leap will develop the developer ecosystem to really find a business hook.

TechRepublic: 5 steps CXOs can take to enable AR and VR training for employees | Are AR and VR training technologies ready for the enterprise? | Why building AR apps could put developers on the cutting edge of digital content | Tech Pro Research: Virtual and augmented reality policy

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