#148: Soren Harner on Meta’s Augmented Reality Glasses

Soren-HarnerSoren Harner is the chief product marketing officer at Meta, and he talks about the Meta 1 developer kit and augmented reality eyewear. They have an SDK to create experiences within Unity which includes different gesture interactions to use your hands to select buttons.

Meta was originally incubated by YCombinator, they went on to have a successful Kickstarter for the Meta 1 developer kit, and they recently raised a $23 million dollar round of funding.

Soren talks about some of the differences between augmented and virtual reality, and some of the outstanding technical and cognitive challenges for AR. The goal of virtual reality seems to be to achieve a sense of presence in a virtual environment, but there are different ways of looking at what constitutes a successful augmented reality experience.

Soren says that Meta is focused on working on different use cases to help solve specific problems. Ultimately, a good AR experience is one that is usable, helps solve a problem, is convincing, gains traction in the marketplace, and integrates well with the human perceptual system. Rather than gaming or entertainment, Meta is targeting professional applications, data visualization, and working with 3D models and Building Information Modeling management.

There are privacy and social implications with using AR in public places, and Soren expects that there will be a period of climatizing to the new form factors before people become comfortable with the AR headsets. Meta is focusing on indoor use cases since their AR headset requires it to be tethered to a computer for now. Soren sees that Meta will use digital content to facilitate collaborations, and that they’re leaving a lot of the content up to developers.

Reducing latency seems to be a big area for Meta, and Soren admits that latency is an issue that they’re continue to work on it. Oliver Kreylos called out the latency in this hands-on review of Meta at SVVRCon.

The gesture controls that Meta has implemented include tracking your hand as a point cloud so that you can use the highest point on your hand as a tapping motion for selecting buttons.

Meta has some prominent members of the wearable computing community including the original cyberman Steve Mann, Columbia University Professor Steven Feiner, and Jayse Hansen, who worked on the sci-fi user interfaces for a number of movies including Iron Man, Ender’s Game and Avengers. Soren said that sometimes a user interface that looks great for Hollywood may actually not be a very practical human computer interaction model, and that’s where Feiner’s insights can help bring Hansen’s visions into something that is usable and practical.

Finally, Soren sees that augmented reality will help integrate and digital and physical worlds in a new way so that we can understand the world better, help teach people things, provide new communication tools, and help manage information about the world around us.

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