Google Glass Rival Hires 'Cyborg' Steve Mann as Chief Scientist

Wearables pioneer Steve Mann has joined forces with Meta, an ambitious startup that’s currently working on the world’s first entry-level augmented reality glasses.

Meta, which has been under development for the past two years, is the brainchild of Columbia University computer and neurological science student Meron Gribetz. His team has developed a prototype that goes far beyond the simple head’s up notification offered by Glass, instead offering a full augmented reality system.

Google Glass Rival Hires 'Cyborg' Steve Mann as Chief Scientist

It's considerably bigger, clunkier, and heavier than Glass (it weighs about half a pound), but its range of features certainly sets it apart. The device is equipped with a pair of Epson 3D screens running at 960 x 540; stereoscopic effects allow for depth perception.

Google Glass Rival Hires 'Cyborg' Steve Mann as Chief Scientist

And now, Meta has announced that University of Toronto professor Steve Mann, the father of wearable computing, will be joining the company as its chief scientist.

The Register reports:

Mann met Gribetz at the LevelUp gaming conference in Toronto, where Gribetz was demoing his Meta prototype, and the pair realized they were kindred spirits.

"We brought Mann on board because of his expertise in two key areas: miniaturization and mediated reality," Gribetz said. "Mann has been developing a Google Glass-like device for years but recognized now was not the right time for something of that scale, because of the limitations of such a device."

According to Gribetz, Mann's experience with occlusion – hiding or modifying real-world objects using 3D rendered overlays – will be especially advantageous for Meta.

The startup’s recent Kickstarter campaign blew past its initial $100,000 target within the first five days, and is now sitting at $112,600. It’s developer kits quickly sold out in the $550 and $650 pledge tier. According to Gribetz, the first devices will ship to developers on September 13 — so this project appears to be really moving along.

Google Glass Rival Hires 'Cyborg' Steve Mann as Chief Scientist

The Meta 1 Developer Kit will allow for visualization and interaction with 3D virtual objects in the real world with simple hand gestures. The kits includes see-through augmented reality glasses, a depth camera, and a software developer’s kit (which includes sample applications and documentation). Meta works with Unity3D — the same graphics rendering engine supported by Oculus Rift — which will allow users to pick up and manipulate their own 3D digital objects.

Related: "Google Glass Ushers in the Next Wave of Cybernetic Hate Crimes," and "What may be the world's first cybernetic hate crime unfolds in French McDonald's."

Images via Meta.