During Facebook Connect — the replacement for the AR/VR event previously known as Oculus Connect — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today that the company is planning to release its first pair of augmented reality glasses in 2021. While the company’s Oculus unit has become a leading provider of VR headsets, Facebook has touted AR as the next major frontier for computing, and this release date could spread the next-generation technology to the masses earlier than expected.
Zuckerberg confirmed that it has been working with Ray-Ban, owned by fashion eyewear company Luxottica, to create the product, and suggested that it will be cosmetically appealing. The companies haven’t yet revealed imagery of the glasses, but it’s important to note that there are at least two stages to Facebook’s plans — an initial AR wearable with basic functionality, then a future fully functional device with more features. Facebook confirmed its multiple prototype strategy last year.
Work on the future platform is currently proceeding under the name “Project Aria,” including a collection of different AR technologies, such as a pair of research glasses and wearable controllers that will influence Facebook’s future AR products. Project Aria will not be sold to consumers, and is intended purely to determine how the technology should and shouldn’t evolve into a finished product.
Above: Facebook’s Project Aria AR research glasses.
Facebook testers will begin wearing Aria headsets in public this month, gathering data while also navigating the challenging privacy, transparency, and inclusivity issues that AR could raise. Last year, a report suggested that the full headset could be released between 2023 and 2025.
Smaller rivals such as Nreal have already released Android phone-tethered AR glasses that resemble sunglasses, betting that consumers will be drawn to $500 wearables that use processing hardware they already carry in their pockets. Magic Leap famously released somewhat unusual circular glasses that were attached to a large puck-shaped computer that users wear as they move around physical spaces. Magic Leap 1 was priced at $2,295, a price that would never have taken off with consumers, and the company formally exited the consumer AR space earlier this year in favor of an enterprise focus.
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