Facebook has long nursed AR ambitions and it has engaged in various software projects in the AR space over the years. There have been reports for quite some time now that the company is working on yet to be confirmed augmented reality hardware. Not much is known about this project at the moment. Reports have filtered out from analyst leaks and speculations based on Facebook patents.
A recent CNBC report has also emerged to the effect that Facebook is partnering with the Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica to help with the development of its augmented reality glasses. According to the reports, it might still take at least three years before Facebook’s smart specs are finally released to the market. That would be 2023 at the earliest.
The CNBC report states that the glasses have been codenamed “Orion” and they won’t be supplemental to the user’s phone. They have in fact been designed to completely replace your smartphone which means they could be packing a lot of components in the design. The glasses will reportedly be able to take calls without having to tether them to a smartphone. They will display information on a “small display”, a functionality that sounds similar to the flopped Google Glass glasses. The reports have also stated that the glasses will have a camera which will enable users to livestream their experiences to their friends and followers.
The CNBC report further confirms that Facebook has been working its own augmented reality glasses at its Facebook Reality Labs based in Redmond, Washington for the past few years. However, according to the sources, Facebook’s AR hardware project has encountered a number of obstacles including the difficulty of miniaturizing the hardware to create an AR device that consumers would actually want to wear. Facebook has now reportedly partnered with Luxottica to help it overcome that obstacle. Luxottica is unlikely to provide much in the way technological innovation beyond the manufacturing pipeline for the frames and lenses.
The partnership could speed up the development pipeline for the Facebook AR glasses with the report stating that they could hit the market as early 2023. In terms of their unique proposition, the AR glasses could be positioned as an alternative to having to constantly check the smartphones while also giving the wearers access to information such as the notifications and text messages via a small display in the lenses of the glasses.
The augmented reality glasses could also potentially work with voice-activated smart assistants. Facebook is currently developing these assistants to compete with similar products in the market such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. Such a functionality would enable the AR glasses to perform multiple functions such as placing calls, transcribing messages or simply performing quick searches.
This being a Facebook AR device, we can reasonably assume that it will also allow users to access Facebook and post updates.
There are still no guarantees on whether Facebook’s augmented reality glasses will ever see the light of the day or whether they will be ready by 2023 as has been predicted. But the project is receiving support from the highest echelons of the tech giant. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly extremely interested in the project and has directed his technology boss Andrew Bosworth to prioritize the project.
In spite of being a Johnny-come-lately in the AR space, Facebook is still uniquely positioned to deliver on high quality augmented reality glasses that are likely to have a mass appeal. It has access to the Oculus technology and its Oculus line of VR headsets have been some of the most successful in the industry, delivering excellent specifications, performance and form factors that have had a good mass appeal with end users. However, should it launch its AR glasses, they are likely to face stiff competition from Google, which is continuing to develop its Google Glass, along with Apple which is also rumored to be developing its own augmented reality headset. But Facebook looks to be in a great position to win the race for an AR headset that is likely to appeal to mainstream consumers.