For a few days recently I augmented my
reality at work, adding virtual displays
to my o;ce so that, while wearing a special headset, I could do things like type
e-mails and read news and tweets without
taking up real estate on my small laptop.
I did this with the Meta 2 headset, a
$1,495 device from Meta, a Silicon Valley
startup that is one of a handful of com-
panies trying to bring augmented reality
to the mass market. The Meta 2, which is
intended for developers, needs to be con-
nected to a beefy computer in order to
work, but it’s about half the price of Micro-
soft’s HoloLens device (also still aimed just
at developers), has a larger field of view,
and also produces very good-looking 3-D
images in real environments.
Since I’m curious about how augmented reality could be used for a regular
computer-heavy work day, I concentrated
on Meta’s Workspace demo app. I imagined using hand gestures to open lots of
Web browser windows and placing them
all around me, letting You Tube videos play
in the background, pulling up a giant Twitter feed, and writing e-mails, all in AR.
But the app would freeze. Many times,
after a few minutes of use, an object that I
was interacting with in Workspace would
suddenly stick in front of my face, moving
around with me no matter how I turned my
head. When it did work, the images looked
good. Workspace uses a bookcase-like visualization for its application launcher. It’s
very cool to open a browser window, start
watching a video, pause it, and then turn
your head to concentrate on something
else; after all, you can always turn back
to it later.
Meta has a lot of good ideas about
how we should interact with virtual elements. Hand gestures aren’t hard to figure
out—to grab, say, a virtual Batman figure
and move it, you hold your open hand in
front of it, and when you see a closed circle
appear on the back of your hand you make
a fist, move the object where you want,
and then open your fist.
At the risk of sounding like a wimp,
I found these interactions tiring. For the
most part, it’s easier to just use a wireless
mouse and keyboard to click things.
I also found that the headset, which
weighs a bit over a pound, was too heavy
for me to wear for more than 25 minutes
or so at a time without getting a headache.
It sounds cool to add digital elements
to the real world, right? It’s something I’ve
been writing about, testing, and looking
forward to for years now. Sadly, while I
wish I could tell you that the desktop of
the future is just around the corner, it’s at
least several blocks away, if not farther.
I Tried the Desktop of the
Future—I’ll Stick with the Past
Augmented reality may eventually help you work. But a few days with the Meta 2
headset suggest it has a way to go.