As you drive down the deceptively quiet streets of Silicon Valley, there is little evidence that all of these nondescript office parks and low buildings contain the planet's future, but they really do. On a recent trip to the epicenter of Tech, I found this first-hand as I visited the offices of Meta, the startup that produced the augmented reality headset Meta 2.
But that day, the focus was not on the hardware, but a new software suite called Meta Viewer. The software, which is still in beta, was shown at the recent AWE conference in Santa Clara, just 30 minutes away from Meta's headquarters in San Mateo.
After a rigorous, safety-oriented entry-level process, I was finally able to board the inner sanctum of Meta and meet with Joe Mikhail, the company's chief revenue officer. Born in Silicon Valley, Mikhail joined the team about a year ago after working for Lenovo and Flex (formerly Flextronics, the company behind several of the world's pioneering mobile devices in recent decades).
"Our mission is more & # 39; augmented humanity & # 39 ;, where we bring together both the digital and the physical world in a very natural and intuitive way how we handle it, "Mikhail said as he led me into the company's demo lab to let me have the new Meta Viewer software for a rotary motion.
"[This] is why we are so natural interaction like hand and voice and less the need to learn the interface to get a job done." As we evolve, it's more about machines that are themselves adapting to human beings and being subject to our natural expressions while preserving that human connection. "
This interface magic is what many AR companies promise, but few actually manage to deliver in a way that really feels intuitive , Therefore, it was pleasant to find out that Meta Viewer works beyond the on-demand demos as advertised. It's a very natural and intuitive operating experience that's probably easy for AR veterans and someone totally unfamiliar with AR headsets and software.
Once you've strapped in the Meta 2 headset, you can start the Meta Viewer software and start with the dead simple 3D interface to select, scale, and rotate objects by dragging gestures with your fingertips, pull, grab and let go. You can also make changes to these objects and then add notes to the items that can be saved and later viewed by you, or to a colleague using a Meta 2 headset elsewhere.
The details and overall fidelity of the models are achieved This rare feat of actually looking as good as the footage shows through video demos. Also impressive was the relatively subtle delay in tracking the objects you manipulate in Meta Viewer. Yes, the 90 degree field of view of the Meta 2, the refresh rate of 60 Hz and the resolution of 2.5K were up to the task.
Beyond gestures, the app's voice control interaction was effective, but only accurate when the user spoke a very special command set. This is not necessarily a deficiency or unexpected in using voice command controls, but as intelligent assistants like Siri and Alexa have taught us, voice commands are usually most effective when they rely more on natural language rather than having to talk like a robot They ready our machines.
Great features include the ability to pair a smartphone with the headset, write a note, and then simply swipe up the phone for the note to appear in the Meta Viewer environment. Later, when a colleague has read the note attached to the 3D model and wants to talk about it, you can both work in real time with separate Meta 2 headsets to work with the Meta Viewer software.
This part of the demo was not & # 39; As fluid as using Meta Viewer as a single user, the overall functionality worked as promised and provided an exciting insight into how some offices in AR will work together in the near future. You can now log in to Meta's website to apply for a private Beta Access.
"The problem that we believe we solve is the departure from living in rectangles (smart phones, desktop computer screens, etc.).) And for the moment," said Mikhail. "We believe that a whole new world of possibilities – whether we create applications or how we communicate or create something – can be redefined."
Meta Viewer was not always perfect ( is beta software), but it's a solid first step towards real, usable, collaborative AR workspaces. And in terms of performance, this is much closer to the dream of manipulating virtual objects into AR, as seen in many science-fiction films of the past few years. The future is here; it's only in beta.