Saudi Aramco signs new augmented reality deal with PIF-backed US startup Magic Leap

We just announced a partnership with Saudi Aramco to work with them on using the technology for remote collaboration and 3D visualization: Magic Leap CEO

  
Silhouettes of Saudi men are seen during the opening ceremony of the fourth annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2021.

Silhouettes of Saudi men are seen during the opening ceremony of the fourth annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2021.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

JEDDAH: Magic Leap, the US-based augmented reality startup backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), has signed a collaboration with oil conglomerate Saudi Aramco, its CEO Peggy Johnson announced on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative (FII), the two-day event taking place this week in Riyadh, Johnson said: “We just announced a partnership with Saudi Aramco to work with them on using the technology for remote collaboration and 3D visualization.”

The technology can be extremely helpful in “bolstering the economy” post-coronavirus (COVID-19), Johnson continued. Similar to virtual reality (VR), the device allows a smooth exchange of content between users in different parts of the world.

“It’s very hard to build augmented reality; it’s not virtual reality. You’re actually placing digital content in the physical space around you,” she explained to FII delegates.

Magic Leap’s technology has already proved useful during the pandemic in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and health.

Johnson gave the example of a medical case of conjoined twins in California, where the device was used to train surgeons for the separation procedure.

While the CEO did not give any more details about Magic Leap’s agreement with Aramco, the American startup already has strong Saudi links, with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announcing in 2018 that it was part of Series D equity funding in the company, with the investment valued at $400 million.

Johnson moved from Microsoft to Magic Leap during the pandemic. The executive spoke about her career shift and how she had only met some of her team virtually, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Workplace challenges were discussed in a separate FII session entitled “The new CEO playbook: How are leaders reinventing work for the post-COVID world?”

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) Vice Chairman and CEO Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan said that speed, agility and effective communication were essential during these trying times.

“Before COVID-19, SABIC looked at a clear strategy for a seamless and engaged communication platform for its growth and competitive positions, which is why we invested heavily on digital mobility,” said Al-Benyan.

Consequently, the company’s transition to remote working was extremely seamless, carrying through 8,000 consecutive meetings for their agile platform since then.

With more than 33,000 employees around the globe, SABIC has had to pay attention to its employees’ well-being, socially, physically, mentally and financially, the executive said.

BNY Mellon CEO Todd Gibbons in the US said that the pandemic has made everyone turn more fluid when it comes to technology, but he can see the office experience changing with introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-recognition.

“Ultimately, what’s not going to change is empathy. This experience has reinforced the importance of empathy around leaders recognizing what’s going on around them,” he said.

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