Meta just released their Meta 2 glasses. In case you’re not aware of Meta, they’re one of the pioneers of AR glasses, pushing the concept before HoloLens, back in the day of Google Glass. In fact, you can say HoloLens took many of the features of Meta 1 glasses and improved over them. Likewise, Meta has done the same with Meta 2. Meta is a cool company which had a very cool ranch as a headquarters. Unfortunately, it appears that the company has outgrown the ranch’s concept, forcing them to move to a more standard offices on the bay area.
Anyway, HoloLens and Meta 2 are -at least- in the same category of products doing many similar things, not like comparing AR vs VR. But where do they overlap? what are they differences?
Here’s where things get interesting, while similar on the surface, there’s a big difference between the two products:
HoloLens is self-contained computer while as Meta 2 is just an input/output device for a computer
HoloLens is a computer in you head: Intel 32 bit CPU, 2GB of RAM, an additional 1 GB for HPU and 64 GB of local storage (i.e. hard drive, not the spinning kind though), with the expected networking options like Bluetooth and WiFi.
Meta 2 by its part, behaves like a monitor (displaying AR content on the person wearing it) and an input device (interacting with hand gesture from the same person).
Those two differences separate both products use cases and limitations quite a bit. Lets see …
HoloLens being self-contained it’s not tethered to anything, so it can be used on industrial locations or anywhere. While certainly not as mobile and compact as Google Glass, no tethering cables allows great flexibility in use cases. It also comes with batteries limitations.
The Meta 2 requires a powerful PC (or laptop?) in order to handle the device, which will be connected to the PC via cables. Obviously this limits the mobility of the Meta 2, and while using it with a laptop might allow some kind of mobility, it’s certainly not designed with that objective.
Flipping advantages, HoloLens software possibilities are limited due to its restricted hardware. Meta 2? As far as the PC can go! Which is a lot! In essence HoloLens is a computer in itself where as Meta 2 is a fancy monitor. These two conditions, define the design philosophy on each of the two.
At the moment Meta is promoting the Meta 2 as a replacement for current computer monitors. The idea is to transform the PC usage experience in one where AR is the base of it. Meta 2 hopes to replace their employees monitors, with each one using instead Meta 2 glasses, all this by the end of the year.
Microsoft for its part is pointing to new use case scenarios for industrial applications and games, but -at the moment- HoloLens can’t be used as a monitor replacement because its simply not one, HoloLens is an extra computer to do different stuff the same way we do different stuff on our mobile devices, regardless if there’s a lot of functionality overlap between our mobile phones and our PCs. Still, HoloLens can display flat information just like a monitor, then again, that’s not the main point of the device.
One area on which Meta has a good advantage is field of view: 90º. Where as HoloLens field of view is much more limited (60º?). This has to do with Meta 2 design is newer than HoloLens, but also as Meta 2 not being a self-contained computer, then it doesn’t have the electronic constrains of HoloLens. Meta 2 is focusing on being a great AR display device, the computation needed for that is relayed to the PC. Obviously this is not the case of HoloLens, on which all the AR display computation takes place, which in turn limits the computing load allowed for field of view.
One advantage the HoloLens might have is that it is a member of UWP (Universal Windows Platform), which in theory would allow for far more content to be deployed on the platform. This of course, remains to be seen.
At this point is fairly evident that the price of each device is going to be different. As of this writing both devices are being offered to developers, thus price it’s not meant for consumers. So, HoloLens is 3000$ where as Meta 2 is 949$. But remember, HoloLens is a computer in itself, naturally it will cost more! But for AR experimentation, you can’t beat the price of 950$. Both HoloLens and Meta 2 are experimental devices, apps on both will be similar, unless a very specific mobility requirement is needed. As such, Meta 2 has a little advantage, but only if mobility it’s not required.