Written by Micah Blumberg March 2nd 2016
I tried the Meta 2 Development Kit at Meta Headquarters and it was really exciting. It is exactly what you are seeing in pictures and videos all over the web including the Meta Augmented Reality Ted Talk. This is in contrast to Microsofts Hololens which shows you something that is different from what developers actually get. I was one of the first to point out that Microsofts early marketing of Hololens felt dishonest, but Meta is telling the truth. Meta’s product is legit. It’s not for consumers or the mass market yet, today it’s for developers and what the CEO called “Professional Consumers”
You can pre-order it now, as of March 2nd, and it will ship in Q3 2016.
The Meta 2 has the widest field of view of any Augmented Reality headset. The Visual viewing area is about 90 degrees diagonal. With Meta its like I can see everything from my shoulders pointing straight forward, this is currently the biggest AR screen announced for the market.
Meta 2’s 90 degree field of view feels like you are able to see 3 times more than you can see at once with the early demo of Hololens which feels like a 30 degree field of view (FOV) (diagonal) by comparison.
So at the moment that FOV puts the Meta 2 at the forefront of Augmented Reality revolution that will be coming to the mass market anywhere between 2-5 years.
The resolution is sharp enough to replace your desktop computer monitor, but you can have 10 monitors simultaneously if you want, floating in space, not taking up additional room.
The HD Display is 2560 x 1440 pixels allowing for high resolution images that can get sharper if you lean in closer to whatever you are looking at for a better look.
So you could have a 4K photo running on 2.5K screen and you would just see a quarter of the picture, but in Augmented Reality on Meta you can lean back to see more of that 4K photo, which would shrink the resolution as you leaned back, or you can lean forward and see it close up, which allows the computer to increase the resolution in that photo for just the portion you are looking at. In that sense that Meta 2 screen is really all the resolution you need to work with even higher resolution products like 4K and 8K video.
Meta themselves seem to be saying that Augmented Reality (AR) is 2 to 5 years out for the mass market which means most consumers.
If you don’t already know Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are similar products, both feature headsets, but AR lets you see the world around you, in addition to what VR offers.
In VR the world around you is made out of software. Both types of products can feature floating monitors that you can resize, move around, and floating 3D models that you and other people can interact with, mostly with just your hands in the case of AR
It also allows people to become holograms for interactive 3D chat over the internet. AR lets you see people in real life, and it lets your real face be seen when you are doing video chat. VR headsets typically block your face so you can’t see what is immediately around you, and your real face is typically missing in online interactions with other VR users. VR on the other hand is a lot brighter, because AR is using projection technology. This like the difference between watching a TV show on a TV verses watching a TV show on a projector. A projector works better when the lights are down low.
On the other hand, you can buy it now, and so professional consumers, developers, and early adopters can get the latest and greatest Augmented Reality headset. So that you can begin to create the content that everybody is going to use in the future.
Future versions of Meta will be “much” smaller, as thin as a pair of glasses, with almost no weight, but currently that isn’t the case. The Meta 2 is very big, when you see it upside down you can see there is a screen in the top that is like the size of an ipod screen. When you are wearing the image from that screen above you is projected downwards into the transparent visor that wraps around your head.
The advantage of projection technology, which I think all Augmented Reality products like the Meta 2 will have is that it allows for software based comfort adjustments, such as IPD (Interpupilary distance) and focus, something that isn’t the case with Virtual Reality products that do not use projection technology so you have to manually adjust headset and screens to get your IPD and Focus right.
I am really sensitive to motion sickness but I didn’t get motion sickness using the Meta 2 which is a huge plus. A lot of VR headsets will give users motion sickness that lingers long after a demo is over. In that respect I can vouch for the Meta 2 as a product that is high enough quality to not give users any motion sickness at all.
Also on the positive side the hand tracking is really accurate, it works really well, it works intuitively. You can just reach out and grab a floating monitor or floating object, move it around, resize it, leave it somewhere, and it just stays where you put it.
This product is a must buy for developers who want early access to next gen AR technology for creating AR apps. Even the tiniest of issues such as the weight, size, brightness, or the subtle vibration of the images will be fixed before this becomes a consumer product. I can say that with confidence.
Meta is capable of running anything that can run in Unity, so in the future that means it can become your only computer interface, it may seriously replace your desktop computer monitor, your mobile phone screen, and of course your laptop screen withing a few years.
About the author:
Micah is a researcher, entrepreneur, and journalist who covers virtual reality, cognitive science, biology, and AI.
and Self Aware Networks: Computational Biology https://www.facebook.com/groups/neomindcycle/