New Meta Headset Offers Promising Tech for AR Developers

The Meta 2 AR headset, priced at $1,495, is still a developer kit, but even in this form, company employees and one lucky reporter are enthused about its chances to succeed at replacing the desktop monitor in the workplace. The Meta 2’s field of view is much larger than that of the HoloLens, and it sports two LCD panels that reflect off the inside of the visors, which results in sharp images and text at close range. The headset uses numerous outward-facing sensors and cameras to map the physical environment.

Wired reports that the physical view is then, “a backdrop for everything you do in the headset,” which “means that if you push a window all the way behind, say, your computer monitor, it should effectively disappear, occluded by the real-world object.” That and other features are, however, “inconsistent at best,” including a disappearing mouse pointer and a “headset [that] refused to acknowledge my hand if I was wearing a watch.”

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Inside the headset, the viewer sees the software interface, dubbed Workspace, which is a set of “small bubbles,” each of which “represents a Chrome-based browser window … proof-of-concept demo experience” and, perhaps soon, third-party apps. The user launches a bubble by reaching out and closing his fist around it, dragging it into free space. Wired also published a video of the view from inside the headset.

Though Meta 2 “may look and feel like a consumer product,” it’s intended for the developers who will build apps and software for it. Meta thus far has partnered with Nike, Dell and Ultrahaptics, a company that uses sound to create tactile sensations. For now, however, “this isn’t just augmented reality; it’s not reality at all” yet.

For its promise to become that reality, says Wired, object manipulation must be glitch-free, the headset must be comfortable enough to wear all day and there must be “a suite of creative tools made expressly for AR, rather than just seeking out web-based workarounds that may or may not work.”

ETCentric first reported on the Meta AR headset here. Although Meta 2 is currently “a fun toy,” the Wired reporter predicts that, “there’s so much money flowing into it, so much research flowing into it, that significant improvement is only a matter of time — and not much time at that.”