Forget smart glasses — Meta exploring earphones with cameras and AI built in

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses
(Image credit: Future)

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is now looking into further expanding its presence in the hardware market with help from artificial intelligence.

While the company already has built its AI into Ray-Ban smart glasses, the tech giant is currently testing new earphones that would come with both cameras and AI, according to The Information, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. The cameras and earphones would be capable of seeing and hearing what's going on around the user and AI would be baked in to identify objects, translate languages, and more, according to The Information's sources.

However, there's still plenty of work to be done. According to the report, Meta still hasn't decided whether the earphones will be earbuds or over-the-ear accessories, and those deciding on the device's final design have seen prototypes but aren't yet pleased with what they're seeing. 

It gets worse. In addition to design problems, the project, which is called Camerabuds internally, is also facing headwinds as engineers face issues trying to get a camera and batteries onto something as small as earbuds. Additionally, some employees are saying that their hair is getting in the way of the camera lens and fear that the batteries will make their ears too hot, according to the report.

All that has led some in Meta to believe that while It's possible the earphones will eventually make their way to store shelves in one form or another, there's quite a chance that they never launch at all.

The race is on in the hardware market for devices with AI. It promises a host of benefits, including the ability to get information on your surroundings, better directions as you walk around town, and improved communication with others. But at least so far, AI-based hardware has been having difficulty getting off the ground.

Indeed, earlier this year, the Humane Ai Pin was supposed to take the AI hardware market by storm. But after a rash of launch issues and some users complaining about its functionality, it's fizzled out. The same holds true for other companies trying to build an AI device, such as the Rabbit R1, which has also been panned by reviewers.

For its part, Meta has been competing in the hardware market for years, thanks to its Meta Quest mixed reality headsets. And while that — and its enormous cash hoard — could give Meta an upper hand in AI hardware, The Information's report suggests it's facing many of the same problems startups are dealing with in building their own AI hardware.

It also doesn't help that Meta has been here before. The Information reported that Meta had worked on earphones back in 2019, only to scuttle the idea after facing too many obstacles to get the devices off the ground.

Meta, of course, isn't commenting on its apparent earphone plans this time around. But if The Information report is accurate, don't expect to hear much about its future AI-based earphones until it gets some important issues worked out.

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Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.