Saturday, October 12, 2013

Meta Bits - Meta Space Glasses Revealed, Piece By Piece

If you've been reading this blog, you've probably picked up that I'm super excited about these Meta Space Glasses.  They have huge potential, and assuming they can do half of what the company claims, they could be a major player in the burgeoning world of wearable natural interaction devices.  

But in truth, there is very little tangible information on their website - or anywhere else, for that matter.  There are some basic specs about the hardware listed, a mention that the glasses will be running off of Unity, a beautiful concept video, and lots of articles with a few minor demonstrations.

As a developer, this leaves me constantly guessing.  And I don't really like to guess, I like to know.  So through various sources (hounding the Meta team), I've managed to unveil a few minor details.  With them I've decided to start a list I call, "Meta Bits - Your source for previously unknown minor details about the Meta Space Glasses until they are released to developers in the Winter." Long name, I know.  I encourage anybody with more information to add to this list, as they see fit.

Meta Bits - Your source for previously unknown minor details about the Meta Space Glasses until they are released to developers in the Winter

  • The glasses will be running a Unity-based desktop, and through that desktop the user will be able to open certain files and programs.  For access to all windows-based programs, the team suggests using Unity's own Virtual Desktop (I haven't actually found a Virtual Desktop that can be run in Unity).  Meta doesn't officially support this, though.   
  • What is displayed by the glasses doesn't necessarily move with the movement of the head.  For example, say you are looking at some virtual picture, and you wan to fix that picture in some point in space.  You can do that, and look a way.  When you look back, it's exactly where you hung it. Or, if you want that picture to be fixed in your Field of View, you can do that, too.
  • The device will be using the SoftKinect DS325 for monitoring movements, and the IISU middleware for programming needs.  The SoftKinect does not do body tracking, only short range tracking and hand tracking.  The IISU pro will be shipping free with the Meta SDK (so you'll be saving $750). 
  • They know about the problems Oculus Rift had with Customs, and they're going to try and avoid them.
That's it for now.  But you can be sure I'll be adding to this list in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meta Space Glasses, SoftKinect, and a peek into their SDK

One beta version of the Meta Space Glasses
Oh, those Meta Space Glasses look so tantalizing.  Their concept video got me so pumped I went straight to their site and placed a pre-order.  I mean, if what they showed is even remotely possible, the app ideas are endless. The problem is, it has been very, very difficult to discern if what they showed IS remotely possible. Aside from their comment about building it on a Unity 3D-driven platform, there have been very few hints as to how a person could code for this device.

Until today.

By chance, I ran into an article today which said that Meta was going to use SoftKinect to build their glasses. A quick visit to SoftKinect's site confirmed the news:

"SoftKinetic®, the world’s leading provider of 3D vision and gesture recognition solutions, today announced that meta, maker of wearable computing and augmented reality solutions, has selected SoftKinetic’s 3D camera technology and gesture recognition middleware for the launch of its Meta. 01 wearable device. Meta. 01 is a set of augmented reality Space Glasses featuring SoftKinetic’s DepthSense® 325 camera and an accompanying Software Developer Kit (SDK) that includes iisu®, SoftKinetic’s industry-leading middleware for gesture tracking."

So now we know!  We'll be using the IISU middleware to program the gesture-based elements of our Meta applications!  Yay!  And this means we can basically start programming those apps now.

But after the whole Unity Pro/Oculus Rift fiasco, I wanted to make sure this wasn't going to be another business deal which saddles the amateur developer with additional licensing fees down the line.  So I wrote to SoftKinect asking if we'll be receiving the ($750) IISU Pro middleware FOR FREE with our Meta glasses.  This is what they wrote back:

"Yes, our relationship with Meta includes our iisu middleware and will be included by Meta with the glasses as a full development system."

I'm pretty sure that means we won't have to pay anything.  Yay again!!

I was a little surprised to find out from them that the SoftKinect sensor that will be used with the Space Glasses, the DS325, is short range and only does hand tracking, but I suppose I should've expected that.  

At any rate, this was a nice surprise that, after many months of not writing a blog post, I just had to share.