Blog by: Micah Blumberg
Micah is a freelance writer with Virtual Reality Media Associates
I’ve talked a lot about Virtual Reality. Now, we’re going to change directions a bit and meet the related Augmented Reality company, Meta.
Right now Meta is about 80 people and they are hiring. They previously secured 23 million dollars, sold 1000 Meta 1 headsets, and now they have just released the Meta 2 headset for 949 dollars, it is a real step forward in the evolution of human tools, one that will lead to the replacement of flat screens like those used for TV, computers, tablets, laptops, and phones. With the Meta 2 development kit you can do holographic telepresence, and you can do work in a remote way that is also very immersive. Meta is a see through device unlike Virtual Reality. You can create new programs for it with a game engine called Unity which runs on Windows. Later this year Meta will support Unity on Mac as well. It’s a stereo 3D display so you can see objects in real 3D. The headset’s sensors measure depth, and recognize gestures. With Meta people can work together from different places, and hand each other data as if they were in the same room.
You can work with 3D models, creating and sharing them as if they were real models right in front of you. You just naturally grab, rotate, resize, and even control things with your voice. There are applications in the field of education, anatomy, chemistry, astrophysics and more.
Meta positions itself as a great way to learn, and once you see it in action that idea is easy to understand. When you wear a Meta headset in a sense your hands are free which is unlike using a laptop or phone. Virtual Reality seems to be focused on entertainment, while Meta’s Augmented Reality system is focused on utility. Meta builds augmented reality glasses that allow you to see holograms and interact with them with a precision level of two millimeters.
So with Meta you have can see the world in the background, and you can stick three dimensional moving holograms on the world in an interactive way. Recently, Meta revealed the Meta 2 which is a massive step forward for Meta and for Augmented Reality. It has a 90 degree field of view measured diagonally which is much better than the Hololens.
Augmented Reality may not be a mass market consumer item for at least a couple years, and maybe up to five years from now. So the real question to ask is, is the usability right? Is it natural, interactive, easy to use, like an extension of my body. Does the Meta make it easier and more natural to interact with computers in general?
That is Meta’s real goal and they hope that you will say yes it does feel more natural than a traditional computer screen, laptop, or phone. That is Meta’s long term goal. The developer kit that you can now preorder for just under $1,000 dollars isn’t going to replace your computer tomorrow, but maybe within a year the CEO of Meta can envision the employees at his company getting rid of all their traditional computer monitors and using the meta headset instead to do all their work.
It’s not the resolution standing in the way, Meta is a sharp, crisp, clear, detailed 2K screen that gives you more detail when you lean it to see something up close. The only thing standing in the way I believe is software innovation. Right now you can browse the internet with Meta and it runs anything you can build in Unity, but it does not yet navigate the Windows environment or the OSX Mac environment natively as I am sure it will do someday. So you can’t yet replace your computer screen with it but maybe by the end of the year you will be able to, and that is one of Meta’s expressed goals.
Meta should make the computer feel like it is an extension of your body and mind, so that with simple gestures you can cause a room full of data, that represents the programs on your computer, to do all kinds of neat stuff, boosting your productive, while allowing you to continue to socialize at the same time, should someone need to talk to you.
Unlike Virtual Reality people can still see your face, so video chat, and creating a hologram of your real body for hologram video chat with other people is possible.
You can really say that Meta’s real mission is to undo the last 30 years of complexity in computing, which make it different from all the other companies in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Actually Meta really sounds a lot like the Apple Computer of old.
They know what their mission is, it’s weird, it’s different, and its kinda awesome! They are in a war to change the form factor of computer interfaces in a real sense. They want to create a revolution and they just might.
It’s cool, it’s social, other people can touch, take, share, and give the 3D holograms that you can see so it’s collaborative, interactive, and multi-player.
The focus isn’t on games, I mean people are using it for 3D design to model cars, satellites, rockets, and people are using it for education, to teach neuroscience, and do things like rehearse a surgery on a model of a patient that is similar to the patient that is about to be operated on, a procedure that can improve surgical success by something like 30 percent.
So in a year Meta is going to throw away all of their external monitors and put them in the recycling bin because they already have the resolution and all the components necessary to start replacing that, and that is just the beginning. In the next few years Meta is going to get more exciting, more fun, with tons of more useful applications.
Curiously Meta isn’t showing off an aspiration of what their product could be, instead they are showing off what their product is right now, and what you see is really what you get.
So the Meta 2 version of the product is about getting it into the hands of people who are going to create the future of how we collaborate. Will you get one?
About the Author:
Micah Blumberg is a person deeply immersed in the local and global AR VR community. He admins for The AR VR Women Group on Facebook. Micah has been co-organizing the AR VR Women meetups in San Francisco with Jodi Schiller. Micah promotes San Francisco Virtual Reality events – the largest meetup in San Francisco and Micah also runs SFVR’s social media. Micah admins for the largest Gear VR group on Facebook and the largest Oculus Rift group on Facebook. If you’re interested in connecting to Micah, reach out to one of his respective media groups linked above.