As Google brings out the updated version of Google Glass this winter, news of a new competitor has the tech world in a state of excitement. Ambitious start-up company Meta is the small fish in a big pond that may yet make quite a splash with its immersive space glasses.
Meta’s product will not actually be released until next June but its publicity campaign is already gearing up. Much of its appeal lies in the fact that it comes much closer to what users have been promised by science fiction – everything from The Terminator to Iron Man – with a visual overlay that provides computer-generated information on top of the natural field of view.
What looks like a pair of large-framed shades conceals reflective inner surfaces that the user can still comfortably see through – as long as it is not too dark – but that act as a screen onto which data can be projected by tiny units in the arms. The product does not yet come with a pre-attached computer for generating this data on the headset, but it can easily be connected to a small, purpose-built unit suitable for carrying in a pocket.
To make the threat to Google more palpable, Meta already has an eager consumer base. It originated as a Kickstarter-funded project, raising a development fund of $100,000, and its backers are already walking around in an early version of the product.
This situation is likely to be of considerable interest to advertisers, who have found the limited visual space provided by Google Glass a challenge to utilize effectively. With Meta’s project, adverts should be considerably easier to display, though of course it will be important not to overwhelm the user; ultimately, when walking around outdoors, it is most important to be able to see other people, cars and so forth.
The potential for map overlays, however, is considerable, and the possibility of adding targeted graphics to make particular shops stand out as a user passes them in the street could have strong appeal for the retailer. For users, the product could mean never again getting lost when walking through an unfamiliar city and could make it easy for them to head directly to the kind of places that interest them most.
One thing that comes through clearly is that this is only the beginning. As other companies begin to compete in the wearable computer headgear sector, there could be many interesting products on the way and customers could get a whole new view of the marketplace.