Facebook’s Look into Smart Sunglasses of the Future
Facebook has taken the plunge into the smart glasses market by developing a version of eyewear equipped with augmented reality capability, and it believes these new smart glasses just might be capable of replacing your smartphone, although that won’t happen anytime soon. The product has been developed in tandem with Luxottica, which is the parent company of well-known glasses manufacturer Ray-Ban. In Facebook’s internal circles, the smart glasses product is known as Orion, and the glasses are capable of taking phone calls, displaying information in a small area within the frames, and allowing users to stream what they see to any of their social media followers or associates.
The glasses will also be equipped with an artificial intelligence voice assistant, in addition to a ring device, although Facebook officials have yet to define exactly how this would be implemented. The ring device itself has been a separate development project, and it has the internal code name of Agios. It is expected that these high-tech glasses will be rolled out to the public sometime between 2023 and 2025, and it is known that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has placed a high priority on this project. Facebook is banking on having these smart glasses replace cellphones as a primary means of communication between people, and if this actually comes about, it will cause an extraordinary shift in communications in this country and around the globe.
Related development projects
At the same time as development on the smart glasses is proceeding, Facebook is also working on an artificial intelligence voice assistant which would act as user input for the glasses. There are literally hundreds of developers at Facebook’s Redmond offices who are completely absorbed in working on technology for the augmented reality glasses, either on the glasses themselves, on the voice assistant, or on the ring device. Thus far, Facebook has encountered a number of development issues, and some of these are what prompted it to partner with Ray-Ban for assistance with development of the glasses.
It is known that Facebook is currently struggling with a method to reduce the size of the smart glasses so that consumers will find them appealing, and so they can be comfortably worn and used without any kind of hassle. The reason for the long lead time, which may extend as far out as 2025, is that the difficulties encountered thus far with development have proven to be some really thorny issues. It is expected that even more difficult issues will arise before anything like a final version of the product is finally arrived at.
Other experiments in smart glasses
Facebook is not the first platform to experiment with the concept of smart glasses to be made available to its users. Snapchat has already developed three successive versions of its Spectacles glasses which allow you to take still images and capture the world around you in a 3D view. Beginning back in 2016, Snapchat invested in its first version of Spectacles, and it has now enhanced them to include far more capabilities than the original version, including having them directly linked to the Snapchat platform itself.
A high-tech company named North launched its own version of smart glasses, which it calls Smart Focals, in October 2018 and these are capable of providing a number of enhanced features such as weather information, audio recording, Spotify control, and turn-by-turn directions. Other companies beside Facebook concur with the belief that smart glasses which have the ability to superimpose computer-generated images on our normal every day world, will constitute the next hottest trend in computing.
Microsoft has invested years of resources into its HoloLens 2 headset, and a Florida startup company named Magic Leap has already begun marketing its Magic Leap One augmented reality glasses. Apple is also working on a project very similar to these others, and which is expected to be rolled out sometime in 2020. Apple’s product makes use of a headset which is linked up with its iPhone, so that it can use information provided by the phone to provide data to users.
Thus far, none of the smart glasses projects mentioned above has caught on very well with users, which of course does not bode well for the Facebook project, although Facebook’s version of smart glasses is significantly different. Google entered the smart glasses market back in 2013 with its Google Glass entry, but this was a resounding failure because the glasses had a very awkward appearance, and they lacked the proper software to make them really useful. Since that time, Google Glass has been re-imagined and revived for corporate users as the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, now priced at $999. When Google was undergoing development for its Google Glass product, it also partnered with Luxottica, the Ray-Ban parent, to speed up development and add technical expertise to the project.
While none of these smart glasses or enhanced glasses products has been a hit to this point, that does not mean that no product will ever capture the public’s imagination and achieve popularity. Facebook’s Zuckerberg is convinced of the viability of the smart glasses product, as well as its potential for replacing cellphones around the globe, and apparently that fascinating prospect is what has motivated him to commit so much time and so many resources to Orion.
How will Facebook glasses be received?
Of course, it’s hard to say exactly how Facebook smart glasses will be received by the general public. It seems a bit extravagant at this point to envision the smart glasses overtaking cellphones as the dominant form of communications in America. However, the fact that the smart glasses have such a high priority within the Facebook infrastructure, means that all available resources will be diverted into developing and refining the technology needed to make it successful.
This fact alone should increase the likelihood that Facebook’s smart glasses will at least enjoy some measure of success when finally released. There will undoubtedly be some progress checks and announcements between now and the ultimate release date, so if this is something that catches your fancy, stay tuned to Facebook’s announcements on how development is proceeding.