Facebook’s next piece of hardware will be the smart glasses it’s creating in conjunction with Ray-Ban, CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed in an earnings call this week. When the glasses will actually go on the market is still very much unclear; the only information Zuckerberg actually let fly is that they’re coming in the near future.
“Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica,” Zuckerberg said on the call. The Verge reports that Zuckerberg also commented on the glasses’ “iconic form factor” and teased that they’ll be able to “let you do some pretty neat things.”
So basically what we know from this call is: (1) the glasses are, indeed, nearing completion, and (2) they do some pretty neat things. Not the neatest things you’ve ever seen, but, you know, “pretty” neat nonetheless. We’ve heard a whole host of rumors about just what those glasses may or may not be able to do for wearers, such as giving you “perceptual superpowers” like enhanced hearing.
Not the full AR frames — These Ray-Ban glasses will be smart, but how smart is anyone’s guess. Here’s what we do know: These are not full AR glasses. That initiative is called Project Aria and it’s a standalone endeavor, unrelated to the Ray-Ban tie-up.
Facebook seems to be thinking of the Ray-Bans as a stepping stone toward Project Aria’s eventual “full AR” glasses. They’ll probably be more like Snap’s goofy frames than the ill-fated Google Glass. No one outside of Facebook has actually seen them, though, so we’ll have to wait and see just how “iconic” that form factor really is.
But the company’s all-in on that, too — At last check, more than 6,000 of Facebook’s employees were working on the company’s Reality Labs team. Facebook’s poached a number of notable members of Google’s AR / VR team — most recently Joshua To, the (now-former) director of Google’s AR / VR team. It’s clear Facebook’s putting massive resources into the AR / VR space.
The company has enormous dreams for what it could eventually do with augmented and virtual reality products, and Zuckerberg has spoken about his desire to make the social network into a “a metaverse company.” The research at Facebook Reality Labs is impressively far-reaching, exploring every avenue of input / output that could be used to keep you connected... and seeing ads, of course.
This pair of Ray-Bans will be a good testing ground for Facebook, allowing the tech giant to better understand what it is consumers like and dislike and how willing they are to buy into wearable tech, especially when it comes from a social network / ad purveyor.