Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the social network plans to release its first pair of smart glasses next year.
The company has partnered with EssilorLuxottica, which owns Ray-Ban, to help support different designs and styles for the upcoming glasses. The glasses will bear the Ray-Ban brand.
Zuck sneak peeks AR glasses
“I can’t go into full product details yet, but they’re gonna be the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses, and they look pretty good too,” Zuckerberg said at Facebook’s virtual reality and augmented reality conference. The event used to be known as Oculus Connect and has since been rebranded as Facebook Connect.
The upcoming release of smart glasses highlights how Facebook has been branching out beyond social networking and pushing further into the development of hardware. The company also has a line of virtual reality headsets and video chat devices.
Facebook and EssilorLuxottica said in a press release that the “partnership will combine Facebook apps and technologies, Luxottica’s category leadership and iconic brands, and Essilor’s advanced lens technology to help people stay better connected to their friends and family.” The companies said the price of the glasses, name and other details will be released closer to the launch date.
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Meanwhile, the social network is launching a project to test out the technology used for fully functional augmented reality glasses, but those glasses likely won’t be released for years.
“The next one or two years, I think I’d be pretty surprised to see [full AR glasses] in the industry. So we’re definitely dealing with years — hopefully not decades,” Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who heads Facebook’s VR and AR efforts, said in an interview with Bioreports.
There are still questions the social network is trying answer such as what sensors to put on the glasses, how they would perform in different light and weather conditions and what data that needs to be collected. Some users might also be wary about buying these glasses because of Facebook’s user privacy scandals.
“The goal here is to develop some normal size, nice-looking glasses that you can wear all day interact with holograms, digital objects and information while still being present with the people in world around you,” Zuckerberg said about AR glasses.
While augmented reality involves superimposing virtual objects onto a user’s view of the real world, virtual reality immerses users in a digital environment. Facebook is still betting that virtual reality will be the next big computing platform, but that vision hasn’t come to fruition yet. VR faces a number of challenges, including the price of the headsets, the content available and the design of the devices.
Zuckerberg said that a lot of people have been spending more time in VR since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Facebook’s Oculus Quest, a VR headset that doesn’t require a PC to function, has been repeatedly sold out this year. Consumer demand for the headset has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, but the outbreak has also impacted the production of hardware used in these devices.
While people are spending more time online because of the pandemic, they’re also missing a “sense of presence” that makes it feel like they’re in the same room as their friends and family, Zuckerberg said. VR and AR can help make that possible.
“As the ecosystem keeps growing and the hardware keeps getting better and better, we’re starting to see how whole new categories of experiences could take place in VR in the future,” Zuckerberg said.
More than 90% of people who used the Quest this year hadn’t used an Oculus headset before, according to Facebook. The company hasn’t said how many headsets it’s sold.
On Wednesday, Facebook unveiled a new version of Oculus Quest that has a better processor and a higher-resolution display. The new headset, called the Oculus Quest 2, has a price tag of $299, which is $100 cheaper than its predecessor.
Facebook purchased Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion. Zuckerberg later revealed that the social network paid another $1 billion for employee retention bonuses and other incentives as part of the deal.
Since then, all of Oculus’ co-founders have left the company, and virtual reality hasn’t taken off as quickly as expected. Oculus is No. 2 in VR headset sales, shipping 28% of last year’s estimated total, trailing Sony, according to data from Statista.