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Meta's Spaceglasses promise mobile augmented reality

Physical and digital worlds collide when users wear Meta Spaceglasses. CNET's Sumi Das tried on a pair of the high-tech specs and offers a firsthand look at the technology that aims to take wearables to a new level.

The founder of Silicon Valley startup Meta, Meron Gribetz, is less than impressed with today's gadgets.

"It's time to move on from boring, flat devices that haven't evolved," he recently told CNET.

Naturally, Gribetz has a suggestion for escaping our device doldrums: Spaceglasses, a wearable computing device in the form of beefy eyeglasses stuffed with sensors, projectors, voice recognition technology and more.

The high-tech specs immerse users in a mobile augmented reality experience. Maps can be manipulated with your hands. When playing a first-person shooter video game you can quite literally become the shooter. Or imagine building a complex Lego structure and having the directions floating above the building blocks spread out in front of you.

Having a hard time picturing it? Watch our CNET News video.

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Gribetz came up with the idea while studying computer science and neuroscience at Columbia University.

"I wanted a screen that would wrap around the entire world," Gribetz said. "I wanted the ability to place three-dimensional objects all over the place and touch them with my hands."

And to his credit, the Spaceglasses prototype does allow you to do that. When I tried out the glasses, I watched a movie trailer projected onto a blank sheet of paper. I was able to reach out and scale the size of the screen using my fingers. An impressive demo, though in need of refinement. The glasses are bulky at the moment, a bit uncomfortable to wear for longer than a few minutes and still wired for power, though Gribetz and his team are nothing if not determined. Their headquarters have a distinct hackathon vibe, complete with snacks and crash pad accommodations.

Meta isn't the only company that wants to bring you digital information on the go. A Taiwanese nonprofit group has developed i-Air Touch (iAT) Technology, and their video demo bears a strong resemblance to Meta's. And of course, there's Google Glass. It doesn't offer an augmented reality experience, but it has a leg up on the competition in the wearable device category not to mention ridiculously deep pockets.

But Meta's been busy its stripes. The startup was accepted into Y Combinator and has tallied up more than 1,300 pre-orders. In other words, we're definitely not counting Gribetz out.