The jury is largely still out on wearable gadgets like Google Glass that let you passively consume information that appears in front of your eyes, but Soulaiman Itani isn’t satisfied with just looking. Instead, his company — Mountain View-based Atheer Labs — has been working on a device that lets its users physically manipulate that information too.
Sounds like yet another load of sci-fi nonsense trickling into the real world, but the experience is much closer than one might think. Earlier today Atheer Labs kicked off an Indiegogo campaign for two new pairs of augmented reality glasses they hope will get developers and tinkerers excited about their vision of the future of computing.
“The digital world shouldn’t be limited to screens any more,” Itani told me. “It should be all around you and customized to you.
The vision highlighted in the company’s Indiegogo teaser video essentially depicts the intersection of Google Glass and “Minority Report”. In order to interact with any of the information or apps that appear before you, you reach out and manipulate it with your hands, thanks to sensors that track your hand movements and gestures in space.
We’re still quite a ways from being able to play with something that polished, but the groundwork has already been laid. Atheer first showed off its work at AllThingsD’s D11 conference last May, and very early demos of the experience seemed promising at best and kludgy at worst.
Don’t expect this sort of tech to come cheap though. The real star of the pair is the Atheer Development Kit (or ADK if you’re feeling jaunty), an $850 model that packs what Itani refers to as “everything that’s in your tablet”. By that he means a slew of sensors, WiFi and Bluetooth radios, and a–sadly undisclosed–Snapdragon chip to power it all. At first glance it may not seem like enough juice to deliver on everything that Atheer has promised, but Itani is adamant that the software that allows those gesture tracking sensors and displays to work in tandem is lean enough to keep things moving at a respectable clip.
And the end result? Something like holding a 25-inch tablet in front of your face at about half arm’s length, except you can reach into that tablet with fiddle with whatever you find.
Meanwhile, the less expensive Atheer One is meant to tap into an Android device you carry around on your person for its computing horsepower and content — Itani says it’s compatible with the full library of Android apps. As you’d imagine, that means there’s going to be a pretty hard limit on compatibility, but Itani says the only limiting factor is whether or not a device is capable outputting “very large images”.
“A three or four year old phone might not work,” Itani said. “But we’ve been testing with the Nexus 4, that’s more than enough.”
Despite all the work that’s gone into turning the Atheer concept into an actual pair of products that should see the light of day next year, deep down Atheer doesn’t want to be a hardware company. This initial run of developer devices are reference units that will, with any luck, inspire some dyed-in-the-wool hardware players to take a chance on creating devices that can help push Atheer’s wild-eyed vision forward.