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Meta Pro promises Tony Stark-style computing with a $3,000 pair of sunglasses

December 18, 2013 | Telepresence Options

Meta Pro Glasses

Story and images by Michael Gorman / Engadget

As opposed to the rudimentary capabilities of the current king of wearables, Google Glass, a company called Meta is building a full-fledged augmented reality computing platform into a pair of aviator shades and a pocket computer. The platform aims to provide the kind of user experience heretofore seen only in Hollywood films -- think Tony Stark using J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man. It's been about four months since we last touched base with Meta, and at the time, we saw a prototype headset and got a demo of the company's technology -- it was a good start to be sure, but the UI was far from ready for consumer use. Since then, Meta's been working hard to get its $667 Meta.01 developer kits ready for a promised March ship date, while also designing its first consumer set of specs set to ship in June: the $3,000 Meta Pro.

The Pro is the first pair of smart glasses that stuffs the technology needed to enable Stark-esqe computing into the form factor Meta's founder, Meron Gribetz envisioned when he started the company -- something akin to a pair of Ray Bans. And, not only do these new glasses sport more fashionable frames than the dev hardware, but Gribetz promises us that they'll also have greater computing capabilities, too. So, when the company offered up the opportunity to learn more about the Pro and use a prototype headset in person at Meta's headquarters in Silicon Valley, we jumped at the chance.

To see the new prototype, we drove out to Meta's new headquarters in the tiny Portola Valley community located in the hills overlooking the western half of the Bay Area. Like any good startup, Meta's employees eat, sleep and breathe work, and we can think of few places as picturesque in which to do so -- it's a mansion complex atop a mountain that provides stunning views of the Valley. Within the walls of that posh compound, the Meta team has been hard at work refining its core technologies, designing the Meta Pro, and manufacturing Meta.01's for internal use.

Meta Pro Glasses

The two bedrock technologies that set Meta apart from others in the augmented reality computing space are its surface tracking and hand tracking algorithms. These algorithms are based upon the pioneering work of Steve Mann, Meta's chief scientist, and are essential to enabling quality holographic computing constructs that Meta wants to build. Before, the company's surface tracking tech relied upon seeing the edges of the plane it was tracking in order to turn it into a virtual display. Now, the tech can identify and track wall and table surfaces even if the cameras in Meta's glasses cannot see the bounds of those surfaces. The breakthrough was accomplished thanks to the incorporation of info provided by the 9-axis inertial measurement unit in the glasses. This capability is what will enable Meta users to eventually fling different computing windows onto walls and have them stick there -- letting them virtually place a window, look elsewhere, and come back to find the window where they left it.

Meta Pro Glasses

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