Glass Glut: Atheer, Meta join the smart glasses fray

Another day, another batch of startups with augmented reality glasses.

The latest contenders are Atheer Labs and Meta. The two startups have different approaches, but they’re both pursuing similar goals of blending the physical and digital worlds with 3D glasses.

Atheer thinks of itself more as a software company, according to All Things Digital. It’s trying to create an Android-based platform for 3D augmented reality apps that you can control with your hands, but to get the platform rolling, Atheer decided to build its own hardware.

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Atheer One

This week, Atheer launched an Indiegogo campaign for two sets of glasses that project a 3D image in front of your eyes. The Atheer Development Kit costs $850; it’s got an estimated ship date of June 2014. A slicker Atheer One is aimed at consumers, and starts at $350 for early bird orders, but it’s not expected to arrive until next December. Atheer is hoping developers will get their hands on the glasses and start creating 3D apps, but it promises that regular Android apps will work through the headset at launch. So far, Atheer is roughly halfway toward its $100,000 crowdfunding goal.

Meta focuses more on hardware. Rather than just creating new apps from scratch, Meta wants to be an extension of your phone or tablet. The glasses, which connect to a “pocket computer” with an Intel Core i5 processor, will be able to project an image of your smartphone or laptop before your eyes, allowing you to control them with your hands. Of course, Meta is trying to woo app developers as well.

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Meta Pro

Meta’s finished product won’t come cheap. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign for developer units earlier this year, the consumer-grade Meta Pro will cost just under $3000. It’s expected to ship in June of next year.

Atheer and Meta have plenty of competition. Earlier this year, another startup called GlassUp launched a crowdfunding campaign for $299 augmented reality glasses, and is now taking pre-orders. More established companies including Epson and Vuzix are trying to make a bigger name for themselves. And of course, Google Glass casts a long shadow.

It’s pretty much a given that not all of these smart glasses efforts will survive. In a way, they’re reminiscent of startup tablet efforts from a few years ago that went nowhere, except now crowdfunding allows you to pledge money toward products that don’t actually exist yet. The wise move is to watch from the sidelines until some clear winners emerge.

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