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Neal Stephenson signs on as tech company's 'chief futurist'

Neal Stephenson's will put his futuristic imagination to work for Magic Leap, a buzzy new tech company

Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson has joined the tech start-up Magic Leap as "chief futurist". The author of "Snow Crash" and "Cryptonomicon," who has also been involved in creating video games, blogs about why he signed on with the company on its website.

"In a teeming, overcrowded hardware lab in a South Florida strip mall, I got the demo from Rony [Abovitz], the founder and CEO. Shortly thereafter, I agreed to become Magic Leap’s Chief Futurist.... what fascinated me wasn’t what Magic Leap had done but rather what it was about to start doing. Magic Leap is mustering an arsenal of techniques--some tried and true, others unbelievably advanced--to produce a synthesized light field that falls upon the retina in the same way as light reflected from real objects in your environment."

In other words, Magic Leap, which recently raised $542 million, is planning to create augmented reality technology that could project 3-D images in real space. The company's website shows images of schoolchildren sitting at a table surrounded by suspended seahorses, cupped hands holding a levitating elephant or a tiny girl holding a puppy, and dragons flying across the sky.

Stephenson spoke to the website io9 about his role: "[I]f you're not actually doing practical things with the technology and engaging with the engineers and understanding the science, then it's impossible to futurize. So I've been telling Rony and the other people involved with Magic Leap from the very beginning that I wanted to have direct involvement in actually using this hardware as a creative platform."

Stephenson's next novel, "Seveneves," is coming from HarperCollins in May 2015.

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