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Augmented Reality Startup Magic Leap Talks to Alibaba About a Big Funding Round

Why does a Chinese e-commerce giant want a piece of a "cinematic reality" company?

Magic Leap
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Magic Leap, the semi-secretive “cinematic reality” company that has already raised a giant funding round from Google and other investors, is back at it again.

This time, Magic Leap is in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba as the lead investor in a new round. Sources say Alibaba is likely to put around $200 million into the Florida-based company. Both Alibaba and Magic Leap declined to comment.

Last week, the South Florida Business Journal reported that Magic Leap was about to raise more money.

Magic Leap has yet to show its technology to the general public, but the company says it is working on a version of augmented reality, which layers digital imagery over the real world, for users wearing goggles, eyeglasses or other hardware. Microsoft has shown something similar with its HoloLens tech, but so far Magic Leap has kept its demonstrations mostly theoretical.

Last week at the WSJD conference, though, the company showed off footage it says has been shot with its tech, which gives you a pretty good idea of what it’s aiming for.

Last year, Google led a $542 million investment in Magic Leap, along with a consortium that included chipmaker Qualcomm, movie studio Legendary Entertainment and Andreessen Horowitz. Since that deal, there has been a constant drumbeat of chatter about the company raising another round, led by other strategic investors.

Alibaba is best known as China’s dominant e-commerce company, but lately it has been making bets outside of retail. Earlier this month, for instance, Alibaba said it was paying $3.6 billion for Youku Tudou, the Chinese-based Web video company.

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