Meta Store to offer hands-on experience of the metaverse and actual hardware

Meta Store Portal-Store

Don’t be confused here, but while Meta wants to enhance the virtual and augmented realities with the Metaverse, the company is also taking it to the real world. Next month, a retail store is about to open its doors in Burlingame, California.

The physical Meta Store is launching on May 9. It is a retail space where you can check out some of the products available. You can try out the Meta Quest 2, Ray-Ban Stories, or the Meta Portal. The store allows a hands-on experience of the items on sale.

Designer: Meta

Meta Store Meta Quest Demo

The Meta Store offers interactive demos like making video calls on the Meta Portal. The Meta Quest 2 demo is immersive with VR. Test yourself how the Ray-Ban Stories can help you be present with the world around you. The pair can help you capture those special memories and share them easily. There are plenty of styles and colors available, as well as a variety of lenses.

The Meta team simply wants people to get a hold of and feel a product first before purchasing—like in the old days. Interacting with everything must be experienced first before deciding if you really want the full Meta experience. It’s an interesting move, actually since the pandemic isn’t over yet. Meta is mainly a digital company too, so going into the real world is deemed unnecessary. But then again, other tech giants like Microsoft and Google also have their physical stores.

Meta Store Portal Opening

Head of Meta Store Martin Gilliard said, “Once people experience the technology, they can gain a better appreciation for it. If we did our job right, people should leave and tell their friends, ‘You’ve got to go check out the Meta Store.’”

There is a Meta Quest 2 display wall at the Meta Store. It is quite interactive as you can try the hardware, accessories, and content ready. An immersive demo area is where you can experience titles like Supernatural, Real VR Fishing, GOLF+, or Beat Saber. These apps can be tried on a wall-to-wall curved LED display. The Meta Store will even provide you with a 30-second mixed reality video of your experience that you can share on social media.

Meta Store Hardware Hands-on Experience

The Meta Store is set in a 1,550 square feet area. The Burlingame store is near the Reality Labs HQ. Interestingly, Meta also added a new Shop tab on meta.com where you can purchase all hardware products online.

The Meta Store will open on May 9. It will be ready to accept visitors from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM PT, Monday to Friday only. The store is located at 322 Airport Blvd in Burlingame, California.

Meta Store RayBan-Stories Demo

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Facebook and Meta employees are now called ‘Metamates’

Metaverse Metamates

Hello, Metamates. That’s what Mark Zuckerburg wants us to call one another. At the moment, only the employees are encouraged to use the term of endearment but we have a feeling everyone jumping into the metaverse will soon be referring to their meta contacts as “metamates”.

In a special virtual meeting earlier this week, Meta CEO and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shared the updated company values. He mentioned that employees are now “metamates” as they are no longer just coworkers. It seemed the executive is serious in using the term coined by American professor Douglas Hofstadter.

Designer: Meta

Metaverse

Hofstadter was asked by another Facebook employee about his ideas soon after the Meta name was made public. Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth (@boztank) shared this piece of information. The term ‘mate’ simply refers to a fellow belonging to the same group. Bosworth also explained the reference to the naval adage ‘Ship, shipmates, self’. Instagram, also a Meta company, has been using this phrase for a while now internally. Zuckerberg seems to want to expand the idea to the rest of his umm, metamates.

Metamates

It’s clear that Zuckerberg really wants change. What’s not clear is how even if we’re being presented with a number of thoughts. There are actually plenty of ideas available but together, they still seem vague. Or maybe we don’t know where to look at the moment.

The legit metamates should know what their boss wants to happen. Changing the company values is just a step in a new direction. Many will question the changes but one thing is certain, Zuckerberg’s Meta wants the world to have a forward-thinking approach to a lot of things. It may not just be the Internet or social media.

Metamates Metaverse Idea

Meta wants us to “live in the future” and where is that exactly? In the metaverse, at least, for now. Zuckerberg introduced a new value of focusing on long-term impact. The metaverse company won’t be just Meta (Facebook). We believe other tech giants will also join the bandwagon especially now that NFTs are becoming mainstream. Meta is simply laying the foundation for many other companies as well that will someday be motivated to join the craze.

So metamates, how is life treating you so far? Has the metaverse been good to you? If you find yourself not interested in the metaverse, you can at least, try to understand what it’s about. You don’t have to jump on the bandwagon. But hey, don’t be surprised if you hear this greeting: Ahoy, metamateys!

Metamates Metaverse

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Meta Band with two cameras makes video chats and vlogging the center of your metaverse experience

Meta’s first stake in the Metaverse might not be a VR headset (even though the company killed the Oculus brand and promptly named it Meta) but a smartwatch that could make you lose more time in video chats, vlogging, and, of course, VR.

Even before Zucerberg’s Facebook rebranded itself to proclaim its new obsession, the social media giant was already rumored to have its eyes on the wearables market. Its focus on the Metaverse might have sounded like it would be ditching those plans, but, on the contrary, its vision for a smartwatch would fit in perfectly with this. Meta was recently granted a patent that shows its vision for such a wearable, and, to no one’s surprise, it’s going to be more about keeping in touch than keeping time.

Facebook Face

Meta’s idea for a smartwatch completely goes against most industry conventions, which is fairly typical for patent applications. It seems that the company hasn’t yet decided on whether it will aim for a typical round smartwatch or a square one that will surely earn Apple’s ire. No matter which design it chooses, the set of hardware features remain the same. There is at least one camera on its face, similar to rumors that abounded last year about a squarish Facebook smartwatch, but that’s hardly the most exciting part about Meta’s smartwatch.

The form of the smartwatch itself is already atypical. While the screen has a square design like the Apple Watch, its body is a little more oblong if not rectangular. The case extrudes to the side and tapers gently down where the cords of the strap come out (more on that later). The body has a minimalist aesthetic that is almost free of any marks, and the only notable blemish in that design is the dreaded notch that houses a tiny camera inside.

Having a front-facing camera is quite on par for a company best known for capitalizing on any opportunity to be social. Back when it was still Facebook, it launched its first smart display product line, and Portal was clearly designed for video chats via Messenger. In addition to plain posts on social media, Meta has been doubling down on real-time communication channels, especially during the past years, where video chats have become critical to keeping human civilization from collapsing.

Thus Meta or Facebook-branded smartwatch with that core functionality wouldn’t be so far-fetched, but that might just be the tip of the iceberg. Rather than straining people’s arms when making video calls, it seems that Meta has envisioned a way to make such chats fun again. And it all starts with another camera on the watch.

Is two really better than one?

According to the rumor mill, the Meta Watch will have a second camera on its back that would have nearly the same capabilities as the one on the back of your phone. That means it would be able to record 1080p Full HD videos, whether for recording or for video calls and even have an autofocus system. Of course, that camera will be completely pointless if all it sees is the back of your wrist, and that’s where the other unique or almost incredulous “feature” of this smartwatch comes into play.

You will be able to detach the smartwatch from your wrist, or at least from the frame that magnetically holds the body in place. This frees that second camera to be used properly, turning the watch’s screen into a viewfinder. That’s a terribly inefficient camera, you might wonder, especially when you have a better camera hiding in your pocket. That might miss the point, though, because you have to see it from the eyes of a company that built its fortunes on keeping people connected or keeping them addicted to sharing things on its network.

Detached from the confines of your wrist, the Meta Watch easily becomes a rival to the GoPro, something you probably wouldn’t want to use your phone for. Action cams aren’t exactly known for their high-resolution screens or even their high-resolution cameras. They’re better known for being small and almost inconspicuous, ready to capture the action (hence the name) at any given time and place. Meta’s smartwatch will make it easy for Facebook users to record video or live stream without having to pull out their phones, especially in circumstances where holding a $1,700 piece of electronics would be tempting fate.

This two-camera setup could also go beyond straightforward video chats or streaming. Smartphones these days are capable of using both back and front cameras at the same time, often with the front camera’s video feed displayed as an inset on the viewfinder. A smartwatch screen is too cramped for that kind of interface, but the functionality could still be present. Imagine talking with a buddy or family and then popping out the watch to give them a better view of the picturesque lake in front of your vacation cabin. How’s that for FOMO?

Video chats, action cuts, live streams, and vlogging all have equal opportunity on a smartwatch with two cameras, especially one that you can pop out from its base. The design sounds a bit ridiculous at first, but it won’t take long to realize how much Meta can squeeze out of it to further its goal of bringing people closer together, which really means having these people use its products and services.

It’s all in the wrist

Meta’s patent doesn’t exactly talk about the design of the smartwatch strap other than the base that holds the watch itself in place. Oftentimes, straps are only an afterthought and only come into play when talking about comfort. It is, however, also a prime opportunity for innovation, as designer Sarang Sheth illustrates.

Rather than the typical watch wristband, the designer envisioned Meta using an elastic paracord that runs through the top and bottom of the smartwatch body, creating a complete loop. The material isn’t less comfortable than a strap made from leather, steel, or silicone. In fact, this more open design makes it easier for the skin to breathe more easily, reducing the risks of skin irritation.

The most ingenious part of this strap design, however, is in the way it opens up the smartwatch to more uses without the need to buy accessories. Simply slide down the body to one end, and you can carry the Meta Watch like a pocket watch. It might even be possible to hang or wrap the watch on some other object for an ad hoc action cam setup.

There might even be opportunities here to add a metaverse flavor to the strap design. Something that may look as plain as a cord loop can have a fantastic appearance when viewed through digital eyes, allowing for customizations that wouldn’t be possible in the physical realm. There could be a market for such virtual designs, even perhaps sold exclusively through NFTs.

Even with its bare design, however, this kind of strap displays a unique character that matches the minimalist design of the body. There’s also a bit of symbolism at play here too, with a loop that is easily associated with infinity, Meta’s chosen logo.

Meta Time in the Metaverse

While these use cases sound typical for Meta, it might not be immediately clear where Meta’s Metaverse begins. After all, this smartwatch sounds more like a downsized smartphone, one that has direct access to Facebook and Meta’s other social networks. Those social networks are the foundations of Meta’s thrust to make mixed reality more social, and what better way to normalize that idea than by making it too easy for people to just chat all day long on their Meta watches.

Accessing the Metaverse from the tiny screen of a smartwatch might not be the most immersive experience, but it is the easiest way that won’t involve having to hold your phone all the time. Simply raising your wrist might be enough to carry on a conversation with someone through a metaverse network, and you won’t have to worry too much about not seeing what’s in front of you.

The detachable design of the watch also makes it the perfect companion to AR glasses. Ideally, such eyewear would have built-in cameras, but there are still technical limitations to how you can squeeze those sensors into a thin frame. More importantly, such cameras are too hidden and discrete that it raises privacy concerns that, in turn, reduce the glasses’ commercial potential (just ask Google). Nothing says you’re recording than having a detached smartwatch raised and pointed at some object, scene, or even person.

Even when not in use as a video recording device, Meta’s smartwatch also has indirect applications in the Metaverse. With biometric sensors for motion, heart rate, temperature, and more, the wearable could provide Meta with the necessary data for a more accurate representation of your Metaverse avatar or, more likely, to send you an advertisement on the best sports drink to help replenish your electrolytes.

Privacy Watch

While smartwatches are pretty much a mainstay in consumer electronics these days, a Meta Watch will still attract scrutiny and criticism more than any other smartwatch maker in the market. That’s not really because of the odd design of the watch itself, presuming it does come to pass, and more about the company. It may have changed its name, but Meta still has that effect on anything it touches.

It won’t be the first smartwatch to have a camera, but the mere fact that there are no more smartwatches with cameras today might clue you in on how the market collectively decided it was a bad idea. The privacy implications of having such a discrete recording device disguised as an ordinary, everyday accessory was too big a matter to ignore. Now imagine that same technology in the hands of a company that has been a poster child on how not to do privacy.

It doesn’t really matter where the camera is pointing at because there will always be a time when it will be able to see everything around you. A flick of the wrist or a turn of an arm could provide a bigger picture of a wearer’s surroundings, even when the camera is supposed to be disabled. Of course, Meta will always defend its privacy practices, and Facebook’s thousands of users clearly indicate how many might not mind that at all, as long as it brings convenience and social connection.

It’s still not clear at this point if Meta will actually pursue such a smartwatch design, particularly one that is admittedly as innovative as this. It’s only a matter of time, though, if it stays true to its Metaverse mission because, by then, anything and everything in the meatverse will be tied to the Metaverse.

Designer/Visualizer: Sarang Sheth

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Xiaomi just announced its Augmented Reality Smart Glasses… and the timing couldn’t be more interesting!





Doesn’t it strike you as odd that Xiaomi would randomly drop such a massive product teaser just a day before Apple’s September event? And hold their own even a day AFTER Apple announced the new iPhone? I’m not an expert analyst, but it seems like they’re trying to beat Apple to the punch, given that a lot of people are expecting Apple to launch their own smart glasses soon. The announcement a day before and the event a day after Apple’s California Streaming event is just Xiaomi’s way of rolling its sleeves up and trying to grab the news cycle by its horns before Apple floods the internet. Moreover, the Smart Glasses also end up firing shots at Facebook, who just announced their own camera-enabled wayfarers with RayBan. Gossip and speculation aside, here’s what the Xiaomi Smart Glasses are all about.

Designed to look like a regular pair of eyewear, Xiaomi’s Smart Glasses actually come with a holographic display built into them. The tiny MicroLED display (which Xiaomi says is smaller than a grain of rice) is built into the temple stem, and reflects a simple UI onto the right eyepiece of the glasses. The specially crafted eyepiece uses a series of microscopic “optical waveguides” to project the display into your eye, allowing only you to see the augmented reality elements when you wear the glasses.

The Smart Glasses come with a rather bare-basics interface, although it’s still incredibly advanced for its time (not to mention the fact that Xiaomi managed to fit all this technology into a ridiculously slim piece of eyewear). The holographic display can display messages, alerts, notifications, and time, although Xiaomi’s most impressive flex was showcasing a live translate feature, that took an English food menu and overlaid the Chinese translations on top of it. Aside from the MicroLED holographic display, the Smart Glasses also come with a camera lens that captures the world around you, allowing you to not just take pictures, but also analyze images and text. Whether all that live translation and processing power happens within the spectacles themselves is yet to be determined, although we can expect much more information on the 15th, when Xiaomi holds its product event.

For now, the Smart Glasses are just a concept teaser with no price, no tech specs, and no foreseeable launch date.

Facebook just filed a patent for a baseball cap with a built-in AR headset and it looks terribly cringe

This is an opinion piece. All views expressed in this article belong to me, the editor.

I don’t believe in punching down. As the editor of a pretty well-to-do design magazine, it makes little sense to call out individual designers and students over their work. I do, however, believe in being able to hold larger companies and billion-dollar OEMs to a different standard. There is power in being able to critique designs and help the world understand what’s measurably good and what isn’t… which is why I think it’s alright to sometimes critically look at Apple’s Cheesegrater Mac, the Tesla Cybertruck, or in this case, Facebook’s AR Baseball Cap which is frankly ugly enough to make Google Glass look cutting-edge.

Outlined in a patent filed back in 2019, and spotted just this week by Founders Legal, it looks like Facebook’s working on a more accessible AR headset that can be worn everyday, anywhere. The AR headset exists as a snapback-style cap (although there’s a fedora version too) with a flip-to-open display built into its visor. Facebook describes the design for its forward-thinking headgear as an alternative to traditional AR headsets and goggles that can often appear thick and clunky. In doing so, instead of opting for a more sci-fi design, Facebook believes that integrating the headgear into something like a cap or hat that people wear around every day, is a much better solution. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help cringing at the very thought of a sci-fi fedora. In fact, Facebook even indicates that this foldable display system can easily integrate into different cap styles, including potentially even (and this was actually referenced in the patent file) cowboy hats.

Gizmodo writes: It might look extremely silly, but in its patent filing Facebook says there are some notable advantages of a design like this. It makes it easier to position potentially hot electronics farther away from someone’s face, thereby increasing overall comfort and wearability. The length of the visor also makes it easy for Facebook to position AR components like cameras, sensors, etc. It sounds practical in theory, but looks far from aesthetic if you ask me for my completely subjective opinion. The idea of having to wear a cap so that I can access AR functions seems odd. Not to mention the fact that casualwear and cutting-edge tech don’t necessarily go hand in hand. It’s an incredibly delicate tightrope when you’re walking between tech and fashion – Apple’s excelled in this domain, Google’s had a few hits and misses. I don’t think Facebook’s got this one in the bag.

With news about Apple working on AR glasses, it would almost seem like the sensible move to adopt that direction too. More than 70% of all adults wear glasses as opposed to probably the 20-ish percent who wear baseball caps and fedoras on a daily basis. That’s discounting the fact that an even smaller number of people actually wear caps indoors. Besides, I really don’t know if there’s any data on how many people want cyberpunkish fedoras with built-in AR displays. Those numbers are yet to be collected.

Images Credits: Andrew Bosworth (Facebook Technologies, LLC.)

Google is policing itself on privacy because it knows it has to

Most people have known for years that technology giants like Facebook and Google make a ton of money by knowing exactly what people do online and selling that knowledge to advertisers. The advertisers, in turn, get better and better at serving people...