How to Win Half a Million Dollars from Magic Leap

3 Tips for Understanding Magic Leap's Independent Creator Program

If there’s one thing you can say about Magic Leap, it’s that the company is not afraid to spend money. Having already secured $2.3 billion in investment rounds for its recently launched Magic Leap One augmented reality headset, it is now running a contest to determine which independent AR developers it will invest in to create content for the device. The total pot of prize money is $500,000, to be doled out in grants of anywhere from $20,000 to the whole $500,000. Applications are being accepted now through December 15, 2018.

So how can AR developers increase their odds of winning? As in any game, you’re more likely to win if you understand the rules. Having read through those rules, here are my top three tips for increasing your chances:

  • Think it through. This is not a sweepstakes, in which the prize is awarded to a randomly drawn winner. This is a contest in which 7 judges carefully scrutinize each submission according to a long list of criteria. You will be asked to describe:
    • the platform on which you intend to launch your app
    • the category into which the app falls
    • whether it is single- or multi-user
    • how you will monetize the app
    • how you will apply the grant money
    • who your team members are and their experience in the industry
    • what demo materials you already have available, and
    • what phase your project is already in.

The form has boxes for narrative descriptions of your team members and for the vision of what you want to create. This is a full-fledged pitch like you would give to any serious investor, not just a shot in the dark.

  • Act now. Magic Leap’s panel of 7 judges votes on each entry within 30 days after it is submitted. That vote includes a recommendation of whether the entrant should receive a prize. If a majority of judges say yes, then that entry will earn a portion of the remaining prize money. In theory, then, it’s possible that the prize money could get allocated before all the submissions are reviewed–or, at least, that more of the money will already be earmarked by the time they review your submission. (See Sections 9 & 10 of the rules.)
  • Play to the judging criteria. Each judge has five stated criteria by which they will evaluate the app, each of which account for 20% of the final score. Those criteria are:
    • App category. The full list of categories in the submission form are Aerospace, Commerce, Enterprise, Finance, Health/Wellness, News/Media, Social/Communication, Architecture/Construction, Education, Entertainment, Games, Location-Based Experiences, Productivity, and Other. You can select more than one. The rules do not reveal which of these apps are more preferred than others, but since your choice of app category is a parameter by which the merits of the submission is judged, there must be a hierarchy of preferred categories. It could also be that the company wants variety, so that only so many winners are chosen in each category–another reason to act quickly.
    • Novelty and merit of the concept within the App category. This seems to be a subjective evaluation by the judges.
    • Diversity of the Developer. It helps, therefore, to identify any socially diverse characteristics of any members of your team, even though the submission form itself does not specifically ask for this type of data.
    • Development risk assessment. The rules define the relevant risk factors as the pedigree of Developer, development time given the team size, complexity of development challenges, compliance with application submission agreements and guidelines provided by Magic Leap. Therefore, the more you follow the contest’s encouragement to “dream big,” the more you’d better present a team capable of achieving those dreams.
    • Engagement loop. In other words, how likely is a user to return frequently to the App. This tends to give more preference to practical applications that will make a difference in the world rather than one-and-done, gee-whiz AR experiences. (Something the AR industry sorely needs!)

Easy, right? Nah–and for that, I give Magic Leap credit. Today’s AR ecosystem is long on gimmicks and short on experiences that validate the past decade’s worth of predictions that AR will someday supplant the internet. This program shows every sign of being squarely aimed at accomplishing the latter. So here’s hoping to see some really well-thought out, practical projects being funded through this program.