Building the Open Metaverse

Augmenting the Metaverse

Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, joins Patrick Cozzi (Cesium) and Marc Petit (Epic Games) to discuss her leadership journey, building an ecosystem, and augmented reality in the metaverse.


Peggy Johnson
CEO, Magic Leap
Peggy Johnson
CEO, Magic Leap






Today on Building the Open Metaverse.

Peggy Johnson:

This is what we stand for. This is how we are going to continue to grow as a company. We're going to be open. We're going to be listeners. We're going to be learners. That makes the difference.


Welcome to Building the Open Metaverse, where technology experts discuss how the community is building the open metaverse together. Hosted by Patrick Cozzi from Cesium and Marc Petit from Epic Games.

Marc Petit:

My name is Marc Petit, I'm from Epic Games, and my co-host is Patrick Cozzi from Cesium. Patrick, how are you?

Patrick Cozzi:

Hey, Marc. I'm doing great. You know I enjoy recording these episodes so much because like the audience, I learn a lot and I get inspired. Today I know we're going to learn a lot about AR, but we also have someone who is amazing when it comes to partnerships and ecosystems, so I can't wait.

Marc Petit:

Let's get going. Our guest today is Peggy Johnson, the CEO of Magic Leap. Magic Leap doesn’t need to be introduced. Peggy, welcome to the show. We're so happy to have you with us today.

Peggy Johnson:

Thanks so much for having me, Marc. I'm looking forward to this.

Patrick Cozzi:

Peggy, we like to kick off the episode by asking our guests about your journey to the metaverse. If you want to go through your time at Qualcomm, Microsoft, and now Magic Leap.

Peggy Johnson:

Sure, happy to do that. It was quite a journey. I was 25 years at Qualcomm and grew up in the mobile phone industry there; I started as an engineer, moved into program management, product management, eventually into sales and marketing, and then ran a division there. But it was near the latter half of my time there when I was running global market development like their biz dev group. That's when Qualcomm started its own journey with augmented reality in the product, Vuforia.

They had built that on mobile phones, and it was the first time I'd ever seen anything like that where you could actually put digital content in front of the scene in front of you looking through your mobile phone, and I was amazed by it. They continued to develop that. I eventually moved over to Microsoft, I'll get to that in a minute.

But the product itself, Vuforia, was sold to PTC. I'm not sure what year it was; it was after I left. It still lives on today at PTC, and they've continued to expand and develop around that.

I went over to Microsoft in 2014 and had a job that I just loved running, biz dev for Satya Nadella, just an iconic leader in the industry, and that was my first introduction to HoloLens. That, to me, was yet another level of amazing because it was a headset right on your eyes. It seemed like the right way to do it so your hands could be free to navigate your physical world.

Then I want to say around 2018 or so, we were invited to come see Magic Leap 1. I think it was just before their launch. It launched in 2018 in the summertime. It was probably just before that. And then again, what a next level up on what could really be the promise of this technology, augmented reality. The things that I saw were just amazing and the clarity of the images, really I was just blown away

I finally came to Magic Leap in 2020, so it was in the midst of the pandemic when I saw that Rony had stepped down as CEO, and I very intentionally raised my hand because I just wanted to be part of it. It felt to me much like the mobile phone industry did years ago as it was just getting going.

We were just starting to experiment at Qualcomm with data on your phone, and never thinking it would be a computer in our pocket. To me, this was a computer on our eyes, and I just had to be part of that whole journey. I've been at Magic Leap now almost three years. Three years in August.

Marc Petit:

Okay, let's come back to a few things. I mean, Qualcomm is an interesting company because it's everywhere, and it doesn't have maybe consumer awareness.

What role do you think that company could play in the metaverse? It looks to me like it could play a pretty big role.

Peggy Johnson:

Absolutely. I mean, they're the major provider of the processor in most of the mobile phones out there. Certainly, they have the scale to have an impact in this space, in the augmented reality space. I think the other thing that folks are going to be relying on Qualcomm for is just the level of compute that's needed to actually enable augmented reality.

Most of these devices, in order to accurately place it in your physical world, you have to do simultaneous location and mapping. You have to know where things are in your physical world so that you can put the digital content in the right place. That just takes an incredible amount of compute, the rendering of the pictures, and doing it all in real-time with no latency; you really have to rely on a high level of compute. This is something that's not your standard kind of mobile phone usage. It's something on another level. I think Qualcomm is the company that can do that.

Patrick Cozzi:

Peggy, I also wanted to ask you about Microsoft. We met earlier this year. We were on a panel at CES, and it was really funny timing because on my way home, I was listening to Satya's book, Hit Refresh, on the re-founding of Microsoft, and then I heard the name, Peggy Johnson. I go, "Is that the Peggy I was just with today?" I kept hearing your name, I swear it was mentioned more than anyone else in the book; very complimentary about you changing the culture at Microsoft to be open to partnerships and creating these incredible win-win relationships. We'd love to hear your approach to doing that.

Peggy Johnson:

It is one of the reasons that I said yes to Satya because I felt like just in the interview process and talking to him about how he wanted to change the company and why he needed to change the culture, I just thought, "I want to be a part of that." I could see his vision, and at the time, I didn't know was his vision going to work? I hope so, I'm going to jump in. And it did.

It was pivotal to the company's rebound. Now their success over the past several years was that change in culture. He talked a lot about always being the person who's listening and learning and not presenting yourself as the smartest person in the room but as the listener and the learner. That just resonated with me. He said that to me in my very first interview and I thought, "I want to work for this gentleman because I knew I could learn from him."

I think what I brought was this, I guess muscle, in building partnerships. I had done that at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm, at the time, had a business model that wasn't loved by everyone. It's a strong business model, where you license a patent pool. The more innovations that Qualcomm built that they just got thrown into the pool, and you would license the pool as a whole.

There was a lot of testing of that model over the years, and companies weren't always happy with it, but it was the place to go if you wanted the latest innovations in mobile phones.

I think what Qualcomm had to learn is along the way, you have to partner with people, not just present a business model as a binary. We were doing that during my last few years there. It was all about growing partnerships with the industry and showing how a partnership with Qualcomm could bring them value and they would bring us value. It was a two-way street.

That sensibility is something that Satya, I believe, was looking for because one of the things he said is, "I want you to go down to Silicon Valley and just become their new best friend." I remember thinking at the time that they were a challenging company to partner with because Qualcomm was a partner of Microsoft, and it wasn't always easy, but his whole point was, if we're going to grow, we have to partner better with the industry. It has to be a two-way street, and that's how you grow. It can't just be, "This is good for me, and it's no good for you, and sorry about that." He saw that so clearly.

And that is how I spent my time. I was mostly on a plane. I was reintroducing the company in some ways to the industry and saying, "Hey, we're open for business. We want to partner, and we want to grow together. It’s not just going to be a one-sided equation."

Marc Petit:

A lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs and involved in young companies, and we all know culture is very important, so how do you... What's the one thing that a CEO or an entrepreneur must think about when it comes to defining culture? How do we impact culture?

Peggy Johnson:

First, I think it has to be top-down. It just has to be, it can't just be talking points, and we're going to try and be better here or there. It has to be top-down.

One thing that Satya did so well is he would repeat it all the time. He would say the principles that we were hoping to adhere to as a company, the cultural principles, and the values. Oftentimes, he would start the all-hands with a repeat of those. That tends to then not just go to the first layer or the second layer, it starts to spread throughout the whole company.

Obviously, it was part of our recruiting. So, when new recruits came in, they had already heard the message about the culture.

I think it would just be impossible to change the culture unless you have that top-down push. It can't be someone over in the HR department saying, "Let's change the culture, and here are a few things we're going to do." It has to be owned by the CEO, owned by the executive team, and then all the layers down.

If it's not, either those people eventually leave who don't embrace the new culture, or it's just going to take longer. So repeating over and over “This is what we stand for. This is how we are going to continue to grow as a company. We're going to be open; we’re going to be listeners, we're going to be learners.” That makes the difference.

Marc Petit:

Let's turn to Magic Leap. Magic Leap is still a young company, but it has a very rich history and a pretty incredible story. I mean, it was founded in 2012, super stealth. They built, Rony built, an amazing team, and then it generated crazy expectations. I mean, I don't know if you probably remember, but we all remember that.

Then it hit some problems, and there you join. You talked to us already about your motivation to get on board. How did you approach that new job?

Peggy Johnson:

Well, a couple of things. I had had a chance, as I said, to see the technology. I knew nothing was broken there. In fact, I was amazed by it. I couldn't believe what they had done in such a small package, even Magic Leap 1, and the way it all worked together just worked so well.

At least from the outside looking in, I thought, "Well, the technology works. That's one big box check I don't have to worry about." It wasn't like they'd gotten to the 90th percent and they said, "We can't figure out this last 10%." Not at all. As you said, they had a talented team, the best in the industry, and Rony was a visionary.

What he created is unbelievable. It truly is. Kudos to him for understanding that he had to pull that whole system together. It's not just about the wave guides, or the projector, or the form and fit. It's all of those things together, and they all have to work well together.

From the outside looking in, I thought Magic Leap 1 had already launched, and it was two years in, and it had not been the success that they had hoped for, but the product itself was strong, and the technology was strong. I felt they were just focused on the wrong market. They'd put a lot of attention on the consumer market. There was some enterprise effort that was going on, but most of the attention and resources had gone toward the consumer market.

Winding back to my mobile phone days, I remember those first mobile phones, and they were big, they were heavy, and they cost a lot of money. It was a small ecosystem, but they proved worthwhile to the enterprise sector. That's who was buying mobile phones in the beginning because they were solving a problem that they had.

There are a few areas, but one that I like to highlight is just the fact that you didn't have to stop and find a parking spot in a phone booth to contact your office anymore. You could call from the car. Think how much time that gave back to a salesperson back then, to make that phone call from their car, rather than getting off the freeway and figuring out where to find a parking spot and finding that phone booth that someone wasn't already at, and all of those things. It just solved it in that not-so-small device from their car.

I thought, "Really, the same things are happening here." Some of the complaints about early augmented reality devices–and HoloLens was in the same category–they were a little big, and the ecosystem wasn't large. They were costly. But did they solve a problem for a sector? They did. We actually had people buying Magic Leap 1 focused on enterprise use cases because they were solving problems for them.

One of them was a company called Brainlab, who does volumetric scans of the brain, and previously they'd been viewed on your 2D laptop. Now with Magic Leap 1, you could view the brain in front of your eyes, you could blow it up really big, and you could walk inside of it. It was an amazing training tool, and they found value and ROI in Magic Leap 1.

What we did is we went back and listened to all the enterprise folks who had bought Magic Leap 1 and said, "If you could change something on this, what would it be?" And we got lots of feedback. Clearly just the human factors part of it was a big one. The form, the fit, can't bug your nose when it's sitting on your nose for several hours. They wanted it to last for several hours.

They wanted the images clearer; they wanted to be able to read the text better. While you could put a screen, you could put a virtual screen in front of your eyes, sitting in your living room, but if you wanted to read what was on the screen, it was a little tougher. The text wasn't as clear, and it wasn't as legible.

The other thing we did is there had been some complaints that when you're in a really brightly lit area, it's hard to see the digital content at times. So, Magic Leap came up with, really a first in the industry, a dimming effect. You can darken the background and have both the physical and the digital content pop in front of your eyes.

For surgeons who wanted to use Magic Leap, the next generation of Magic Leap, which is certified to take into the operating room, they said, "Really, an operating room is where I'd like something like that." Because they're very noisy and loud and brightly lit. If they just wanted to zoom in on the knee and put a digital copy of a scan of the knee on top of the patient, they'd really like the rest of the room to fade into the background, with maybe the exceptions of the patient's vitals in some comfortable area of your field of view.

We worked on that, and the engineers did an awesome job on that; they came up with not only global dimming but also segmented dimming, so you can dim out the whole view or just pieces of your field of view. That's been a real big change.

We also have an extended battery that can give you… First of all, the standard battery is about three and a half hours, which is longer than the first one. But extended battery for long surgeries, for instance, can go up to eight hours plus. It's just flat and lays on your back. It's simple to use, and you don't have to worry about hot swapping a battery in the middle of surgery, which would never have been the right answer.

Marc Petit:

It's quite a big challenge to go from... using the word pivot because that's a fashionable term. It's quite a big pivot to go from consumer to enterprise and also go to a downscale of expectations and resources.

How did you keep everybody motivated and engaged through this process?

Peggy Johnson:

I’ve got to be honest, I didn't keep some of them. Some of them were very creative. They maybe had been hired to work in a content studio. At that point, with our pivot to enterprise, they said, "This isn't what I had come here for." They were looking for a different sort of role, a creative role, focused on consumers, and that wasn't where we were at.

We did manage to keep a whole lot of folks because, very quickly, we painted the vision of what an enterprise-focused company can do. I think “consumer” is always flashier, right? It sounds more fun; it’s flashier versus enterprise, which sounds staid and old-fashioned or something. But when you paint the picture of going back to that company Brainlab, they were able to train a whole team of surgeons on the separation of some conjoined twins who were conjoined at the brain.

It was the middle of the pandemic, they weren't co-located, but they were all looking at the same brain, and they were walking through the steps they would take to separate that brain. They trained for months, and the outcome was a success.

You have to quickly, as a new CEO, I had to come in and paint a different picture, and I hoped it resonated with folks. I would say it did with most folks. We did lose a few, who went back to areas in the creative industry, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and the gaming industry, that sort of thing.

I don't blame them. I am the biggest fan of following your passions and doing what you are most excited about.

Patrick Cozzi:

I want to shift gears a little bit and ask you about ecosystems.

Certainly, when we think about the metaverse, it's all about the ecosystem and building a large interoperable network. I think Marc's full-time role is to do ecosystem work for Unreal. To some extent, my main role at Cesium is ecosystem; that's how we approach the market and create an impact. Thinking back to CES, I mean, I thought you had some very insightful things to share about your approach to ecosystem with Magic Leap. Could you share it with us?

Peggy Johnson:

If you go back several years and you remember Magic Leap 1, it would be sitting in an AT&T store next to a mobile phone that had a huge ecosystem around it, had so many apps you could download, and so many things you could do with it. With Magical Leap 1, there was a limited amount of apps.

Now, the hope was that devs would pick it up, and it would grow over time, and it probably would've, given more time. But in the end, the pivot to enterprise meant a new ecosystem. It wasn't going to be a consumer ecosystem. We now had to look at what sort of an ecosystem did we need in place and when did we need it in place?

We knew on day one that when that hardware hit the market, that ecosystem needed to be there. So, out of the box, the device could show value. You don’t want to leave something like that up to creative devs, who, over time, will get there, but you want to show value right away and show tangible ROI for someone buying the product.

We worked hard on areas that we thought were resonating the most, again, from what we learned from enterprise users in Magic Leap 1. That was training any sort of 3D visualization, whether that was healthcare, or in the training front, or industrial settings, that sort of thing, putting digital twins on things.

The last area was remote assist. That one continues to surprise me, how much it resonates with just about every company because when you are trying to get something back online and the expert is not there, sometimes a phone call isn't enough. You really want them to see what you're seeing.

Putting on the Magical Leap device and having that expert somewhere else in the world on any device that they have in their hand, being able to enter your world and see what you're seeing, and having the ability to annotate digitally in front of my eyes as I'm looking at a piece of machinery, is amazing and keeps people from traveling, or making that expert travel. A lot of times an aircraft mechanic, all they do is travel because there are so few of them, and they have to go where the problems are. This device can start to mitigate that kind of travel.

We focused on those areas and on companies who built things like that in the 2D space, whether it was on an iPad or on a PC. Then it was up to us to show them the value of bringing that into the 3D space. You could put it in front of your eyes or overlay a digital twin on an actual physical device in front of you; that was the lift that the team had to do.

We could have gone in a lot of different directions, but we had to show value right away. We had something to prove with Magic Leap 2 so we really limited to that. People would say, "You know what? I'd love to use the device for this or that." But if it wasn't in those three areas, we said, "We're going to take a rain check. We'll circle back at some point. But right now, we're focusing on these three areas because they're use cases that we know resonate, and they can solve real problems today.

Those are the sorts of companies that we’ve pulled into our ecosystem so far. It continues to expand every day. We have a strong dev relations team, we have strong dev support, we’ve got a good SDK. We built all the things you need for these devices to enter the corporate IT infrastructure. All of those things, the privacy, the security, mobile device management, all of that had to be added. Some of that was there for Magic Leap 1, but we really had to beef things up with Magic Leap 2 in order to enter most companies' IT infrastructure.  

Patrick Cozzi: 

Peggy, I specifically wanted to ask you about the operating system and the move to Android.

Peggy Johnson:

Yeah, that's an interesting one. So again, I thought Rony had strong vision in this area because when he first started building this device, he looked at the existing operating systems and he either had to convince those operating systems to add in the AR elements that he needed or he had to build his own operating system. As you can imagine, a very small company, a startup basically, asking some of the larger operating system companies to just add a few elements for them; they were polite, but it went on a list and the list was long. 

So Rony made the decision to build his own operating system and I think it was absolutely the right one because it also gave them so much flexibility as they were learning. This, again, was new technology. No one had gotten as far into augmented reality as Magic Leap had and, if they needed to try something, they could go down to the operating system level, make changes, quickly do a reset, and test something out in a matter of hours rather than going back to one of those companies and convincing them to make a change. 

It was absolutely the right decision at the time. It gave the company the ability to bring a full up device to market. So Magic Leap 1 was built on that operating system. They called it Lumen internally. 

One of the first decisions that the tech team made when I first got there, and they made it within the first few months, was we need to move to a more standard operating system if we want to be able to pull in the broadest set of developers. That led us to move to AOSP because if you're a developer and you're already developing for Android and iOS, and now this little company is asking you to develop on their operating system, it's a lift. So in order to knock that obstacle down, and also Android was far more developed with AR elements by that point than when Rony first made that decision.

So we moved over. It took some time, obviously. You can imagine we had to touch so much of the code base in order to move it over, and it delayed things, but it was the right move. And it has been nothing but good for us because we've been able to do all sorts of things, port things more easily, bring on all sorts of platforms, things like Unity, Microsoft's MRTK that they had, their Mixed Reality Toolkit. We were able to port that. All of these things were just made so much easier with an Android base underneath.

Patrick Cozzi:

I mean, it's such a great story and I think it shows that the approach to the ecosystem can be dynamic and the decision can be a right decision at one point in time and then having that courage to revisit it later. Yeah, that's super cool.

Peggy Johnson:

Yeah. And actually what you're saying is true, Patrick, because decisions don't have to be binary and a lot of times we get very polarized in those. Just going back to the sensibility that Satya taught me, it was always take a fresh look at things. There's no reason that if you said no to something five years ago or even last year, not to take a fresh look and test your theory again. You may change your mind and we can get polarized and very binary about our decisions. That's one thing that I learned from Satya that I've tried to take into this job.

Marc Petit:

2023, you mentioned a few use cases. Which market segments are the most promising for AR? Do you think AR has found its footing in the enterprise space?

Peggy Johnson:

I do, and the markets are limited right now because again, we've looked for segments that were already comfortable wearing something on their eyes. I mean, this requires you to wear something on your eyes. Industrial use cases, they're oftentimes wearing safety glasses. Defense and first responder training, a lot of times, they have something on their eyes. Surgeons in the operating room oftentimes have things on their eyes, so they were already comfortable wearing that and understanding that that was a tool. Those things are tools for them to do their job better.

Now you bring in an augmented reality headset; it’s not as much of a stretch for those sectors to adopt something head worn on your eyes. That's why we started there. The use cases then evolved from those segments. I talked a bit about the healthcare industry. Training, obviously, is a big one, and it used to be training outside the operating room, and now you can even use it inside the operating room during surgeries.

What I like to point out is in certain countries, say, the number of cardiac surgeons is very, very low per the population that's in that country. This can almost be a force multiplier because a single cardiac surgeon from a single spot can help assist some new cardiac surgeons or new surgeons who are learning about cardiac surgery to come online more quickly because they have this assistance from afar.

If a surgeon opens a patient up and something there is unfamiliar, they can call in an expert. For the first time, an expert can see what they're seeing and talk them through something that they might be uncomfortable proceeding with. The use cases around training and in the surgical suite have been the ones we've been most focused on. In the industrial space, any sort of digital twin, whether it's in automotive or inside of a factory, just makes a lot of sense to people where it's your job to keep the machine in front of you running. It has gone offline; what do you do?

In a standard world, you were trained on it six months ago in a classroom; the manual is somewhere, but you don't know where it is, got to go find the manual, find the page in the manual, and get to step one. This you put a computer on your eyes. Through computer vision, it recognizes the machine, overlays the digital twin on top of it, and says, "What do you need to do?"

“I need to fix this machine.” What's the first step? The first thing you do is go check this gauge, and digitally it can be pointing it out to you. You can also call in an expert. If you get to the end of the steps and you still can't figure it out. You can call in this capture of, which we're finding very interesting, as people retire in these industrial jobs, it has been hard to refill the jobs with new talent. But that tribal knowledge, if you will, can be captured inside these devices, and you bring in someone new, and they're immediately empowered because they've got a little expert in their field of view walking them through a fix. It's kind of game-changing.

The companies that we've been working with in the industrial space have found that they have an easier time recruiting because this is kind of cutting-edge technology. This is not their grandfather's factory. They get to use the cutting-edge technology that knowledge workers have gotten to use for years. Now, a factory worker has the same access to it and also retaining because they feel empowered. You don't have to, when you get stuck, go, "Oh, I've got to go find my boss and figure out what the next step is." You can just call in an expert in your field of view who can walk you through it.

It's very empowering for a new factory worker, and they found also that the factory workers can be out on the factory floor much more quickly with this type of training. It's just a little bit easier cognitively to understand when things are presented in 3D. Those are the areas, the strongest use cases, that we've seen.

Then things like defense training, first responder training, unfortunately active shooter training is one. All of those things can be done with less cost in an augmented reality environment, but in the real environment, which is kind of nice, you can actually train inside of a school, for instance. We do have some police departments that are starting to use that to train their officers inside buildings where they may have never been. They can start to do some training on those sorts of things on what to do and what's step A, step B, step C, that sort of thing.

Marc Petit:

I remember a surgeon mentioning the use of AR in the operating room for, just say, the first time you drive a car with a GPS compared to having a paper map on the passenger seat. I mean, the level of comfort and self-confidence that it brings to surgeons. The fact that they can get so much information is life-changing for them. It allows them to do their job so much better and has a huge impact.

Peggy Johnson:

I always liken it to when we first started using search instead of going to encyclopedias or something, and I'll get the wrong encyclopedia. Where's the article and all that; it was never easy. Now at our fingertips and now in our pocket, you can always find the answer. Now, with Chat GPT, to literally anything.

It is that same kind of feeling that we all got that a surgeon can feel and that a factory worker can feel. You're just doing your job better, faster, more productive, with less rework. All of these things have been able to measure in these early use cases. That's why we're focused on those, and we're going to stay focused on those for the short term because that's where the value is.

Patrick Cozzi:

Peggy, I wanted to switch gears and ask you a little bit about the landscape. Earlier in this episode, you spoke a lot about all the features that you did moving from consumer to enterprise, but when we look across the landscape, there are devices from Meta, Microsoft, and Apple. I wanted to ask about your approach to having Magic Leap stand out and differentiate itself.

Peggy Johnson:

First, I would say it is good for us to have more folks in this space. I mean, it helps the ecosystem, and it helps the awareness. People now understand what mixed reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality is. It's a different game even than when I started under three years ago. Just the average person's knowledge of this space has increased, and much of that was thanks to Facebook changing their name to Meta and people saying, "Okay, what's this metaverse thing?" That's part of the educational process that we were going through kind of person by person, company by company. Now, people get it. That has been a huge help.

I think all of the devices that are starting to come onto the market also is encouraging. It means big companies like Apple are validating that there are reasons to use this technology and reasons to bring a device out now. It has been gratifying to see for sure. It definitely helps the ecosystem because we're getting more and more devs interested in the space.

Then there’s how we differentiate it. We are true immersive augmented reality. We very accurately place that digital content in your physical world to very, very fine precision. That has been our biggest differentiator. We talk about augmenting your place, so whatever place you're in, we can help augment that as a tool for whatever job you're trying to do. We're focused on the areas that I've talked about, but that's kind of how we see it.

I think some of the devices that have come out are more of a heads-up display, totally useful for certain use cases. Maybe you just want notifications in your field of view while you're doing your job and your hands are free. You've got a device on that just gives you a heads-up display, a quick zap of information that helps you do your job better. That's not where we are.

We are truly interactive digital content. There is input and output on the content. You can modify it, and you can conform it to different things. Someone not near you can augment your physical space with digital content. I mean, all of that is sort of next level. It opens up use cases like in the operating room.

In fact, there's another type of augmented reality called pass-through, which generally is meant to take an image of your physical world and then display it in front of the display that's in front of your eyes inside of the headset that you have on. Also, good for certain use cases, but it tends to have some of the same effects as virtual reality does to some portion of the population in that it can make you a bit nauseous.

Your eye is thinking it's seeing something 10 feet away, but it's actually focusing on the screen that's three inches away, and that can have an adverse effect on some people who get that nauseous feeling in VR. There is also a pretty big latency issue with that because you think what it's doing, the cameras are outwardly facing, it's taking all of that imagery, it's pulling it together, and getting it up in front of your eyes. There's a latency there, and it's so much so that if you throw a ball to somebody who's wearing a pass-through headset, likely the ball will bounce on the floor because their hands will clap to hold it after the ball has already dropped.

There's a certain amount of latency that just isn't acceptable for the type of use cases that we're doing in an operating room, for instance. I don't think you'd want a surgeon operating on your knee or any other part of your body to have any latency in the imagery in front of their eyes. They just want to see the knee, and they want to see the digital content on top of the knee. You're not going to see that kind of technology anytime soon in the operating room. It just doesn't have the precision.

Patrick Cozzi:

Peggy, one of our favorite topics is open standards. We think that the metaverse is going to be built by many people, and everything needs to connect. Marc knows between the two of us, I'm the geek; I love the idea of formats that can be used by many different companies or have an API that has many different implementations. I wanted to ask about OpenXR and if you think that can help accelerate adoption.

Peggy Johnson:

We are huge fans of open standards. We are members. Actually, we hold the vice chairman spot at OpenXR. Magic Leap 2 is compliant with OpenXR. As other standards, as they continue to evolve in the industry, our goal is to be compliant with as many of them as we can.

Again, just going back to the company size, that's how we see our ability to scale. The more open that Magic Leap can be, the faster we can scale and tap into new areas, new companies, and new developers. To not do that would inhibit our growth. We've always been fans of open standards, but there's actually a business reason, too, because we want to touch as many of these areas as we can. We work hard to keep things very open. We integrate with any number of platforms.

We just have been integrating with NVIDIA's Omniverse, for instance. Strong platform, building their own connections to other software packages at a rapid pace. That helps me scale. If I connect to Omniverse and then Omniverse connects to those other packages in the industry, it's a huge force multiplier for Magic Leap; we are going to continue to do that. We'll continue to be fans of that, and we continue to contribute. We do hold that vice chair position, as I said, but we're also one of the major contributors to OpenXR, and we'll keep doing that as well.

Marc Petit:

Are there any obvious gaps in the open source slash open standard landscape that you can think of?

Peggy Johnson:

When the team has seen gaps, they've worked hard to run toward them and try to come up with an industry standard that everybody in the Forum agrees with and then push ahead with it. We're in a little bit of a different spot than some of the other companies. We're pure play in the augmented reality space. I don't have a cloud I'm trying to sell. I'm not trying to sell games. I'm not trying to sell advertising. It's just augmented reality, my device, and my platform. That has left us a bit more flexible than maybe some of the others. We're happy to hold that position.

Marc Petit:

You've been very, very active in supporting diversity; I would give you a chance to tell us what you did at Magic Leap and then give your thoughts about how we can help the industry do better to get all those points of view around the table.

Peggy Johnson:

When I walked in the door at Magic Leap, diversity was one of the topics I raised. I think it was on the very first day because, again, I had learned a lot both coming up myself through engineering at Qualcomm and obviously my work at Microsoft, and I had seen there's not only you should do it because it's the right thing to do, have a diverse team, hear from all the voices, but there are also business reasons to do it.

You really need to think about who you're selling your product to. If the product is designed and developed by all the same type, you're likely going to sell to that type. I always use myself. If the team was full of Peggys, I know what the device would do, and I would love it, and the other Peggys on the team would love it, but there's a big world out there, and it might not fit for everybody for a variety of reasons.

Why not build for the biggest audience you can? That is the sensibility that I learned from Microsoft. I think Microsoft learned that over the years. They had a few stumbles with various... they're very open about it. They'll talk about different areas where they were building a product, they didn't test it on all age groups or all genders or all ethnicities, and that limited their ability to sell into those areas, so they learned, "Hey, these design teams should be very, very diverse because that's how you're going to sell to the most people," and brought that into the company.

The good thing was Rony had a very similar sensibility, and much of that was in place already. We weren't as diverse, say, at our engineering base. We've worked hard over the last few years to increase our number of female engineers, having a diverse set of folks in our leadership. 

It is work. It's easier when someone says, "Oh, I know the right person to put into that spot." But we're like, "No, we are going to go and get a diverse slate, and then we're going to choose who goes into that spot." I just don't take no for an answer when people say, "Oh, I don't have time to do that." It's like, "Well, that's what we're going to do because that is the right thing to do for our other employees, it's the right thing to do for our business, it's the right thing to do for our market." We take the time to do that.

The numbers are changing slowly. You have to keep your foot on the gas pedal. You can't say, "Oh, I've done enough."

You always have to look at the numbers and monitor them and beat yourself up when they don't look good and double down. Those are things that remain important to me three years in. Even given all the other things that we go through, diversity remains an important topic to me, and we keep it alive every day.

Now, for the industry as a whole, I can only talk about my own experience, and I think others could weigh in with similar experiences, but I wouldn't want to speak for them. I would say coming up as a female engineer for 25 years at Qualcomm; it was not always easy.

I was almost always the only woman in the room. Almost always, when I became a manager, I looked around, and there were no other female managers at the time. Many things where it's just not as comfortable when you're the only one because you get some good attention and you can get bad attention.

It's like people are watching you more than maybe everybody else. There are all sorts of reasons why it's not comfortable to be the only person on a team with your features or your gender, or your ethnicity. That, to me, is my own experience of that feeling of isolation and, at one time, feeling like I wanted to leave the industry because I thought it wasn't a welcoming place. I set myself on a course to try and change that in my career. I've spent hours and days and conferences and given talks on this to just keep it visible, keep people understanding the value of it because the more that we can create a diverse set of engineers and more engineers come into the field.

I mean, we need engineers. We're so short in general here that what are we doing? Why would we isolate any group? 

Let's say come one, come all. But when you bring them in, they have to feel comfortable in that environment. The second thing is how do you build an inclusive environment at work. Again, we spent a lot of time on that. Going back to my own experience, I'm a very quiet, very introverted person in general, and I used to have a hard time, I still have a hard time breaking into a conversation in a really loud dynamic meeting. I figured out, and I've told various managers along the way, just make some room for me because I have a hard time making my own spot in there, and I feel awkward doing it. I think other people even think it looks awkward when I try to do that because I have to speak up, and I don't usually speak up, and it's not comfortable for me.

I've spoken with managers and just said very simply, using a sports analogy, throw me the ball. Every now and then, throw me the ball. Turn to me and say, "Peggy, what are you thinking on this topic?" And that has made a big difference. I try to do that with other people who also may have a hard time breaking in. Also, by not penalizing anybody that you don't hear from in a meeting, say, "Oh, they never said anything."

They might have had a lot to say. They just weren't able to break in. I'll drop by their office sometimes and say, "Oh, I was just wondering what you thought about that conversation, and do you have any input?" That's what I mean when I say make it an inclusive environment. There are little things you can do to help everybody have a voice. The more voices, the better products, the better services, and the better software platforms you make. It makes business sense to do that. I've tried to keep that up in all three of my careers.

Patrick Cozzi:

So, Peggy, this has been an inspiring conversation. I was really looking forward to it, and this topped my expectations. To wrap things up, we wanted to know if you wanted to give a shout-out to any person, organization, or multiple.

Peggy Johnson:

I would love to give a shout-out to one of our software partners. It's also a female tech CEO. There are not a lot of us. But Alicia Caputo runs Avrio Analytics, and she has just built some amazing solutions on top of Magic Leap 2 in the area of first responder training and safety training.

Actually, we're using it now in our factory. We have to train once a year on if a fire breaks out. She has got an amazing, a little bit too realistic augmented reality solution that we can use on our own employees. 

Marc Petit:

Peggy, you're an engineer, you are a business developer, you're an ecosystem builder, and you look like an amazing CEO. We are super happy to have you with us today. Thank you so much for taking the time. We know how busy you are, and we really enjoyed this conversation.

Peggy Johnson:

Oh, thank you. I appreciate you all having me on the podcast. This has been really fun. Thank you.

Marc Petit:

And to our listeners, thank you so much for listening to us.

You can reach out, reach us on social, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, and you can email us at

Thank you, Patrick. Thank you, Peggy. Thank you, everybody.