Facebook: Tech firm to launch first set of Ray-Ban ‘smart glasses’ next year

Facebook to launch first set of Ray-Ban ‘smart glasses’ next year as Zuckerberg announces vision for ‘holograms of friends playing poker in your living room’

  • The collaborative tech will have a classic design but will not sport a display
  • Facebook researchers said true AR glasses are likely still years off of being sold
  • At present, the required hardware is too bulky for viable commerical product
  • The Ray-Ban smart glasses, in contrast, will require pairing with a mobile phone  
  • Nevertheless, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has ambitions to pioneer in this market
  • The next step is likely the firm’s Project Aria — which will generate AR displays

Facebook’s first pair of smart glasses — made in collaboration with luxury eyewear manufacturer Ray-Ban — is to be released next year, the tech firm has revealed.

The announcement coincided with CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealing his vision for the future of augmented reality (AR) — bringing holograms of friends into your home.

While this dream may seem especially appealing amid present coronavirus-related restrictions, however, such a future may still be some way off.

In fact, the smart Ray-Bans will not have an integrated display, the Verge reported — but may feature recording capacity or a voice-activated assistant.

Facebook has confirmed that the product will operate by pairing with a phone.

The tech firm has also previously indicated it is developing audio features for augmented reality which will make sounds from speakers sound more authentic.

Furthermore, its researchers are working on developing technology to facilitate ‘perceptual superpowers’ that automatically tune out background noise.

Facebook’s first pair of smart glasses — made in collaboration with luxury eyewear manufacturer Ray-Ban — are to be released next year, the tech firm has revealed. Pictured, a file photo of a regular pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, which could resemble the smart design

The announcement of the launch window for the smart glasses was made by Mr Zuckerberg during his keynote at the virtual Facebook Connect conference.  

‘We’re passionate about exploring devices that can give people better ways to connect with those closest to them. Wearables have the potential to do that,’ Facebook Reality Labs vice president Andrew Bosworth said in a statement.

‘With [Ray-Ban owner] EssilorLuxottica we have an equally ambitious partner who’ll lend their expertise and world-class brand catalogue to the first truly fashionable smart glasses,’ he added. 

It is unclear at present exactly what features the firm’s first smart spectacles will sport — but even though the glasses will not generate an augmented reality overlay, Facebook have said that the product is part of its larger foray into the world of AR. 

‘They are going to be the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses, and they look pretty good too,’ Zuckerberg said during a steamed presentation.

‘Delivering a sense of presence is the thing that I care about. And virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be the technologies that do that,’ Mr Zuckerberg told the Verge in a separate interview.

While virtual reality — such as, for example, Facebook’s recently announced Oculus Quest 2 headset — will immerse users in a simulate environment, he said, AR will bring people into your existing environment through the use of holograms.

‘So in the future, instead of a video chat, I’ll just be sitting on my couch and your hologram can just appear on the couch next to me, or I can hologram into your house,’ Mr Zuckerberg continued.

‘And part of why that’s going to be a lot better than video chat is that then we’ll be able to have virtual objects that we can interact with together. If we want to play a game of cards, I can have a deck of cards.’

The announcement of the launch window for the smart glasses was made by Mr Zuckerberg, pictured, during the keynote of the virtual Facebook Connect conference

The announcement of the launch window for the smart glasses was made by Mr Zuckerberg, pictured, during the keynote of the virtual Facebook Connect conference

The next step towards Zuckerberg’s vision of the future is likely Facebook’s previously announced ‘Project Aria’ — a pair of true augmented reality glasses.

Beginning this month, the firm’s employees and contractors will reportedly be field testing Aria prototypes out in the real world, with the aim of not only putting the tech through its paces but also exploring potential issues around privacy.

According to Facebook Reality Labs head Michael Abrash, the limitation on developing commercially-viable AR glasses is that the required display and audio hardware cannot at present be built into the required slim form factor for spectacles.

To be viable, he told Reuters, smart glasses need to weight in at under 2.5 ounces (70 grams). He added: ‘Those glasses are still years off.’

WHICH COMPANIES ARE WORKING ON AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES?

Augmented reality (AR) glasses have seen a resurgence in desirability, with a host of firms working to develop their own technology. 

Last year, Bose joined a quickly growing list of tech companies that are building augmented reality eyeglasses. 

The first company to enter the race was Google, which released the Google Glass in 2011. 

Google Glass, now referred to as Glass, has been changed from a consumer-facing product to an enterprise product, used by companies like Boeing. 

Since then, several companies have come out with their own products.

Secretive startup Magic Leap began working on a prototype several years ago, but finally debuted its ‘mixed reality’ smart glasses late last year. 

Magic Leap says its AR glasses will ship in 2018 after a multi-year wait. 

Tech company Vuzix, based in Rochester, New York, is launching its Vuzix Blade glasses later this year for about $1,300. 

Smart glasses that superimpose computer-generated images onto the world around you could start at at £1,000 when they are released this year. Magic Leap, the usually secretive Google-backed company behind the gadget, says it is working on multiple versions of the gadget

Smart glasses that superimpose computer-generated images onto the world around you could start at at £1,000 when they are released this year. Magic Leap, the usually secretive Google-backed company behind the gadget, says it is working on multiple versions of the gadget

They use a tiny projector to show a virtual image in the top right hand corner of their lenses. 

Wearers can connect to WiFi and read emails and other messages via the display, as well as use Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, to issue voice commands. 

Amazon is also rumored to be working on its own AR glasses to be released sometime in the future. 

Additionally, Intel released its prototype smart glasses, the Vaunt, earlier this year. 

The glasses use retinal projection to put a tiny display on the wearer’s eyeball. 

Snap has launched its Spectacles and there are rumours of Facebook abd Apple working on AR glasses, 

Niantic, the American firm being Pokemon Go, has also revealed it is partnering with Qualcomm to create its own AR headset technology. 

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