AT&T inks exclusivity deal for Magic Leap’s headset

AT&T announced that it will be the “exclusive wireless distributor” of Magic Leap products for consumers in the United States. Magic Leap’s first product, the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, is a “lightweight, wearable computer that will enrich real world experience with digital content,” according to the companies. It is scheduled to ship “later this year to qualified designers and developers.”

Interestingly, AT&T discussed how its network will be able to support Magic Leap’s forthcoming products, which may be a hint at how the company might leverage 5G network technology. AT&T said it plans to launch mobile 5G services in roughly a dozen U.S. cities this year.

An AT&T representative declined to comment on AT&T’s plans for the gadget beyond the companies’ release, including how it might use 5G.

“AT&T is excited to pair our pioneering technologies, unmatched network, content platform, and vast customer ecosystem with Magic Leap’s efforts to build the next generation of computing,” said AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan in a statement. The companies said Dononvan now has “observer rights” with Magic Leap’s board. “We’re designing and offering the future of entertainment and connectivity, and this exclusive arrangement—in combination with our 5G leadership position—will open up new opportunities and experiences.”

The companies said the combination of Magic Leap’s forthcoming headset and AT&T’s network and distribution would “usher in a new kind of contextually aware, intelligent, human-computer interactivity.”

Magic Leap is a startup that has long been secretively developing an augmented reality platform including technology and a headset. As noted by VentureBeat, Magic Leap’s forthcoming product will include a lightweight pair of glasses connected to a wearable computer, along with a wireless “Totem” controller.

Indeed, Magic Leap has been the subject of much discussion in the tech industry following a series of impressive demo videos the company has released. However, a number of articles also cast doubt on whether the company’s commercial products will be able to live up to the hype that has formed around the secretive startup.

Thus, AT&T’s apparent vote of confidence in Magic Leap—including Donovan’s personal relationship with the company—may serve to add heft to Magic Leap’s efforts in the sector.

For AT&T, the company’s move to ink an exclusive deal with Magic Leap echoes the company’s initial deal with Apple. AT&T for years was the exclusive vendor of the iPhone, which gave the carrier a leg up against its competition in the United States in the first years of the smartphone market. However, AT&T was also the exclusive U.S. carrier for Amazon’s Fire phone, a device that failed to gain traction in the market.

Moreover, AT&T’s move to support Magic Leap’s forthcoming augmented reality product aligns with statements by AT&T management that augmented reality will be one of the first technologies that will make use of the high speeds and low latency provided by 5G.