Meta 2, the Augmented Reality Headset
The Silicon Valley VR conference kicks off this week in San Jose, California, and like most tech conferences, you’re equally likely to bump into a tech company representative giving demos in a hotel room as you are to run into a regular guest.
Meta 2, an augmented reality headset that’s been garnering attention for its ability to accomplish a wider field of view and more natural gesture interactions than others in the AR space, is one of those innovations being demonstrated.
Meta started life as a Kickstarter campaign way back in 2012 but the developer kit will be available in Q3 of this year for $949, compared to $3,000 for the Hololens.
The Meta 2 demo ran through a variety of experiences, including watching a small AR basketball bounce on a real table. It is possible to manipulate objects using your hands by doing intuitive movements like grabbing, touching, and pulling. When you touch a picture of a shoe inside an Amazon webpage in a browser window for example, brings out a model of the shoe you can look all around, and even separates so you can look at individual parts. The capability also exists to look at multiple browser windows simultaneously and, if you put down an object and look away, the object remains there—all in a 90-degree field of view with 2560×1440 resolution.
Conference calling with a person in another room could bring forth his holographic image which could then proceed to hand you a model of the Sydney Opera House through the call enterprise.
As you may have surmised, yes, it is an impressive pass at augmented reality.
For now, Meta employs about 100 people, according to Ryan Pamplin, VP of sales and partnerships. They’re accepting the mantel kind of like the Little Engine that Could. Even though they do not have the multi-million dollar funding of Magic Leap, or the infrastructure and resources available to Microsoft, they want to be the ones who bring computing out of the 2D world, and as a result, eventually replace your tablet, laptop, and smartphone with an AR device.
“We take a very simple approach to extremely complex problems,” said Pamplin. For example, Meta did not approach hand tracking by putting 100 engineers to work on it and figure out how to guess the position of fingers when they’re out of view. They didn’t have to. “As a user, if I can’t see my hand, I don’t expect my hand to do anything.”
At this point, Meta is building partnerships, eyeing the enterprise, and working on getting into areas like education, medicine, manufacturing, and more. Pamplin gave an instance of an anonymous client that purchased units of Meta 2 for use on the field. According to him, the company’s solution required their mostly traveling workforce to use multiple monitors which is a huge problem.
“It’s very attractive to jump right to the consumer, but you have one shot with the consumer,” Pamplin said.
If you sell a device that ends up not meeting expectations, people won’t buy another. The difference, according to him, with businesses, is that there’s a current need for AR solutions, versus even an enthusiastic interest on the part of the consumer. “There’s budget for it, there’s a need for it, there’s true usefulness that will cause a fundamental change in the business outcomes for these enterprises today.”