Since moving away from the brand Oculus and rebranding their AR and VR initiatives under the banner of Facebook Reality Labs, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new consumer wearable – smart glasses which would arrive in 2021.
Following up on the same, it looks like the social media giant has kept its promise as recent media reports suggest the smart glasses are bound to arrive ‘sooner than later’ this year. But there is a catch!
According to Facebook’s hardware chief Andrew Bosworth, the smart glasses which are being built in partnership with Ray-Ban and its parent company Luxottica Group SpA, won’t be including any augmented reality aka AR-enabled capabilities.
This basically means users of the Facebook-built glasses won’t be able to overlay digital objects onto their real-world view, something which is a foundational element of the augmented reality technology.
In a statement about the same, Bosworth said that the spectacles are certainly ‘connected glasses’ and they would provide a lot of functionality to the wearer. However, Facebook, as of now, is extremely coy about which functionality the glasses will provide. He also said that this is why the company is persistent about calling simply calling them ‘smart glasses’ and not AR glasses.
Facebook announced the plans for launching AR glasses for the first time in 2017 and since then built only a couple of camera features which would allow wearers to project digital images onto their view from the glasses.
In recent years, to make smart glasses into a reality, the social media giant allocated a substantial amount of resources into its hardware development. It first acquired the virtual reality startup Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion and then went on to launch an in-home video device called Portal.
Currently, Facebook’s V.R, A.R and hardware teams account for more than 6,000 employees which, according to a person in the know, is way more than the number of employees working on Facebook’s family of apps – Instagram and WhatsApp.
The Facebook smart glasses are part of the company’s long-term vision within the organisation to capture the next big platform after the smartphone. Thus, with the upcoming smart glasses which will be launched without AR technology, one can assume that Zuckerberg is simply testing the waters and preparing the ground for a fully capable AR-equipped smart glass.
As of now, Bosworth didn’t divulge any further information about the glasses and instead said that they happen to align with the broader philosophy of the company around the augmented reality which is to ensure that technology is peripheral to human interactions in order to enhance ‘presence’
Lastly, Facebook is not the first company to have dove into the space of smart glasses. Alphabet-owned Google was the first tech company which attempted to create a pair of smart glasses. They named their product Google Glass which never caught on as a consumer device but ended up becoming a nifty worker aid in warehouses and various other industrial settings.
Other than Google, Snap Inc. which is the parent company of Snapchat also launched their version of smart glasses and called it Spectacles. It lets people record videos hands-free and then transfer it to their phone.
Now, how will consumers react to Facebook’s first iteration of smart glasses, only time can tell. We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.