Facebook’s First Smart Glasses to Arrive in 2021
At the Facebook Connect XR developer conference last week, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg gave an update on the company’s augmented reality strategy: Facebook’s smart glasses are set to appear in 2021 and in terms of their form factor, they are reminiscent of the conventional sunglasses.
The smart glasses were not showcased during the Facebook Connect and we also don’t know any details on their function. Instead Facebook showcased its Project Aria research effort that is built around the custom smart glasses above. Facebook dived a bit into its ongoing research in the augmented reality devices.
Zuckerberg announced that next year would see Facebook taking “the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses”.
He also announced that Facebook will rope in the giant luxury eyewear brand Luxottica and that the new consumer AR device will have a Ray-Ban branding. According to Zuckerberg, the inclusion of Luxottica is to accommodate various styles and preferences which consumers might have for the glasses.
Although the Facebook does not have a product yet, it announced that it had already formed multi-year partnership and will begin building and releasing its first pair of smart glasses in 2021. Facebook did not provide much detail on the capabilities of the new smart glasses but the glasses will not have a display thereby falling short of AR capabilities, according to a confirmation it issued to TechCrunch. While they will not be Google Glass, they will be more like Snapchat’s Spectacles that were first unveiled in 2016.
On the research front, Facebook is still working on its quest to build wearable AR glasses that will integrate Facebook’s software. Facebook first confirmed it is building its own proper AR glasses back in 2018.
From this month, a few “specially trained” Facebook employees as well as contract workers will be wearing its high-tech smart lasses around campus to test the tech giant’s wearable research devices in real-world environments. An image of Facebook’s high-tech research glasses can be seen above.
This quest is part of Facebook’s Project Aria which is the company’s Augmented Reality research initiative within the Facebook Reality Labs.
Facebook streamed a video to showcase the relevant research into its smart glasses which depicted some of the theoretical use-cases for Augmented Reality glasses such as overlays of street directions, visual alerts to help you find your lost keys or music recommendations from a brick-and-mortar record store.
These early testers will capture stuff in the real world that Facebook researchers aren’t able to figure out in the labs such as the types of sensors that need to be incorporated into the hardware as well as the kinds of data which the smart glasses should or shouldn’t collect.
Facebook is currently in the midst of a raucous privacy debate and appears keen to avoid the privacy scandals faced by earlier smart glass launches like Google Glass. It is taking its smart glasses on extensive tests before it puts any consumer device on sale. According to the head of Facebook Reality Labs Andrew Bosworth, this test of the version of the Project Aria smart glasses is not a working prototype but a “precursor to working AR” without a functional heads-up display. Check out this CNET behavior for an explanation on what Project Aria entails.