3D augmented reality holograms are finally here (almost)

December 18, 2013 by Amara D. Angelica

MetaPro (credit: Meta)

Admit it: you want to play Iron Man’s Tony Stark, manipulating amazing inventions and taking over the world. June 2014, you’ll have your chance.

That’s when Meta’s aviator-style MetaPro “holographic” glasses — a consumer version of the $667 Meta 1 developer version* — will ship. Meta is taking pre-orders now for this pricey but powerful $3,000 gadget.

It will have 1280×720 pixels for both displays and 40 degrees field of view, with 2mm optics aligned for stereo depth vision. Included in the glasses frame will be a 3D depth sensor, twin RGB cameras, 9-axis integrated motion unit, accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass — all of which translate into awesome 3D video games and other apps Meta says it has more than 500 in development.

A bucket on your head vs. aviator glasses?

So how does it stack up against Google Glass? Meta says it will have 15x the display of Google Glass, with 3D (not just 2D), and will recognize hand gestures. And Oculus Rift? “That’s a ‘Matrix machine,’” said Meta CEO Meron Gribetz in a fun interview with me on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 . “You put a big bucket on your head, blocking you off from the real world and people around you, in simulated reality.”

Gribetz, a neuroscientist, is not very happy with VR and user overload. “I got into this field as a neuroscientist, researching vision and natural user interfaces,” he explained. His goal: create a non-invasive visual interface that is friendly for the brain and avoids cognitive overload. (So now I know what to call my condition.)

“The Meta is a natural machine, which uses the things that have evolved to manipulate our environment, namely, our hands. You reach out and you manipulate holograms,” Gribetz said.

An Iron Man system in your glasses and pocket

This is the Iron Man embodiment, he said. “The person who produced the video on our website is the same person who designed the user interfaces for the Iron Man franchise — as well as Avengers and others — and is also involved in designing our software.”

The legendary Steve Mann (remember the Paris “attack on a cyborg”?), who invented the first augmented reality device in 1978, is also on board as chief scientist.

Exactly how would MetaPro compare to what Tony Stark could do in Iron Man? “Aside from [Stark not using] a head-mounted display, the difference would not be noticeable, assuming a powerful computer were driving it,” Gribetz said.

Granted, the MetaPro won’t have such a computer. Who wants to drag around a supercomputer or can afford one? But it will have the most powerful commercially available wearable pocket computer, he claimed. With these specs, it will indeed rival laptops: an i5 CPU, GPU (for fast graphics), 4GB RAM, and 128GB solid state drive, plus Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0. Want.

“MetaPro will come very close to Iron Man, but its computer could also connect to a supercomputer, meaning you could in fact generate virtually any number of polygons, [allowing for large, fast-changing images] as in Iron Man.”

So what’s ahead? “I want to end the era of flat devices. Instead of a smart phone or tablet, we want to create a visually simulated 3D image of the device [by controlling a phone or tablet via WiFi],” like in Almost Human. “That’s the killer app we’re working on very excitedly at Meta.”

* Meta.01 was announced in August. The concept video is below.

related viewing:
Meta | Meta.01 Developer Edition augmented reality glasses concept video