Facebook knows that engineering a pair of avant-garde smart glasses isn't sufficient enough to get the masses to jump on the eyewear-tech bandwagon — it needs to look good, too. That's why the social network giant is collaborating with Ray-Ban, a popular sunglasses manufacturer.
However, according to CNET, Facebook is shying away from calling its forthcoming stylish smart shades an augmented reality (AR) device. Andrew Bosworth (Facebook's head of AR/VR) said the company is more focused on launching a product that makes users more "present" as opposed to creating new ways for people to digitally interact with their environment.
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The Facebook x Ray-Ban smart glasses launch date may be closer than we think
In early January, we reported that Facebook planned to launch its smart glasses in 2021. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg substantiated these claims during an earnings call by announcing that its smart shades will be the next product it will push to market — and it's coming this year.
"Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with Essilor Luxottica. The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things. I'm excited to get these into people's hands and to continue to make progress on the journey towards full augmented reality glasses in the future," Zuckerberg said.
Facebook unveiled its partnership with EssilorLuxottica (Ray-Ban's parent company) last fall. As mentioned, the social media company is coy about calling these upcoming smart shades AR tech. In August 2020, the social network giant admitted that it initially wanted to release a stellar pair of AR spectacles, but the current technology (or lack thereof) doesn't support its ambitious vision.
"Many of the technologies needed to deliver on the promise of AR glasses don’t exist yet — and our team is hard at work to make them a reality," Facebook said.
A month later, it seems like Facebook failed to successfully engineer ready-for-market glasses that qualify as AR tech, which is understandable given the requirements needed to pack AR-capable internals into a small form factor. Facebook needs to be mindful of users' comfort, too (the hardware could run too hot).
The Facebook x Ray-Ban collaboration will likely focus on audio tech
Bosworth said that people should temper their expectations for these smart glasses. They likely won't feature digital artifacts that overlay in one's environment, but they will "help people stay connected to each other, and never feel like they're out of touch with somebody else," he told CNET.
CNET speculates that the smart glasses will offer more audio features as opposed to visual tech. After all, Facebook is trying to knock Clubhouse (a popular audio-only app) off its throne with its new live audio rooms feature.
Apart from hinting that the smart glasses will allow users to be more "present," Facebook is being hush-hush about the actual features. We're eager to learn more about what these stylish, non-AR smart shades can do.