Ever since Google first showcased Google Glass, it was a safe bet there’d be competitors following in the augmented reality space. Some have already made their appearance, but now, one more has entered the fray in the form of a prototype from Meta, which has some interesting backing and some unusual features.
The Meta headset – still reportedly in the prototype stage – looks to offer an augmented reality headset experience all its own, but with a critical difference from Google's Project Glass; it's out to put up a twin-display environment complete with controls by two-hand 3D tracking.
Instead of floating notifications in the corner of the eye, it allows for effects to appear directly in front of the user.
The Meta headset likely won't win any awards for looks, as the prototype is large and clunky. It's got a full-on Epson Moverio BT-100 and low-latency 3D camera parked right over the bridge of the nose piece, but this combination of components allows for individual fingertips to be tracked and glowing dots to be overlaid over the same – all in real time.
Better still, those Moverios being used aren't just straight systems; they're custom jobs brought in direct from Epson, who Meta has set up an agreement with to provide.
Similar plans currently revolve around a wide variety of possibilities, including productivity, gaming, retail and several others.
Other headsets are actually in the works that look a lot less heavy and a lot more stylish, and issues of battery life are also something of a concern; the battery is said to run for six hours at a clip, but that's when tied to a wired control unit and an accompanying battery pack.
Meta's system actually represents something of a step up from Google Glass – some are calling it “mediated reality” as opposed to “augmented reality” – but it's going to be a while before these become available at the user level. Meta plans to get the Meta-1 dev-kit up on Kickstarter fairly soon, though no one's quite sure as yet just how much they're going to cost when they get there.
Meta also reportedly has plans to play in Google's sandbox in a different way, to start actively recruiting AR app developers, which Google plans to do as well with its upcoming Glass Foundry event.
Competing against Google is no small task, especially for a company looking to take its dev-kit to Kickstarter. Trying to compete against one of the largest companies Earth has to offer, and one of the deepest pockets to boot, is a daunting task.
But Meta does have some interesting technology behind it, and being backed up at least somewhat by Epson doesn't hurt either. This may well be a dark horse competitor that forces Google to step up its game a notch before it even goes into wide release – the kind of thing that spurs some real advancement.
It's going to take time to see how the whole affair comes out, but until then, we have quite a bit to look forward to, as Meta, Google, Vuzix and the rest take on the augmented reality market in the months to come.
Edited by Braden Becker