Geekdom is marching ever closer to the sorts of sci-fi computer interfaces we've been squawking over. Naturally, some milestones are larger than others, such as the meta 1 augmented reality glasses (funding through June 16). After years in the lab, meta's team is now ready to release the first edition of its development kit.
Eventually, the meta 1 will look stylish and modern--something akin to a pair of designer sunglasses. For now, the developer's kit appears purely functional: It starts with a pair of what look like hardware safety glasses. Above the bridge of the transparent lenses, a wide camera panel peers over your nose. As the device spies the real world, it anchors virtual content to it and spits a visual display of this information into the glass. A separate display area for each eye presents a stereoscopic 3D image to the wearer, which you can then manipulate via preprogrammed command gestures, regular pinch and drop motions, or whatever developers manage to dream up and implement. Useful data may by tied to real world objects and be scooted, plucked, and resized like your favorite slick sci-fi interfaces. 3D meshes, by the sounds of it, may even be crumpled and mushed like Play Doh.
The limits of what the meta software is capable of have yet to be defined. This is a raw development incarnation, a hardware and SDK package rather than a showcase suite. Each eye sees through a 960-by-540 slab of pixels presented in 23 degree arcs, allowing for stereoscopic effects to apply at distances of 5 meters.
With a little more than two weeks to share, this project is $30,000 past its $100,000 funding goal. With early specials gone, you'll need to spring for a $750 technically-limited-but-vastly-supplied full developer's kit. You can reserve your place in line for the next generation model for $250, attend a launch party in San Francisco or New York for $100, or grab a pair of regular-reality sunglasses for $50.
Columbia University has bred the majority of the folks behind meta. A pair of professors stand with computer and neuroscience majors, as well as the newly-scooped Steve Mann. Some considerable brainpower is being brought to bear here.
This is the first incarnation of the meta glasses, but development-related functionality and specs look to remain the same. It'll just become prettier and wireless. Manufacturing is stepping into the licensing agreement finalization phase, with printing and packaging to follow. This could be a great opportunity to hop in the the ground floor of some great new tech.