Facebook is making smart glasses with storied eyeglass brand Ray-Ban, as we officially learned last year, and now it sounds like the spectacles aren't far off. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the eyeglasses are next in the social media giant’s product pipeline.
Zuckerberg commented on the project during a Wednesday quarterly earnings call, and said that it will be Facebook’s next product to be released.
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“Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica,” Zuckerberg said, per a transcript of the call. “The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things.”
Those comments alone don’t tell us a lot about what to expect, other than that the frames will likely keep the classic allure of traditional Ray-Ban glasses. As such, they may not be particularly gadget-forward in design, perhaps in a play towards less tech-centric consumers.
We already knew, however, that the glasses will not be an augmented reality (AR) device. That means that there will not be a visual unit to overlay digital content or objects on top of real-world footage. Facebook confirmed that detail last year, stating that the glasses will not rely on an integrated display. However, Facebook still has AR glasses plans in the future.
“I'm excited to get those into people's hands and to continue to make progress on the journey toward full augmented reality glasses in the future,” Zuckerberg added during yesterday’s earnings call. He did not specify a release target for the Ray-Ban glasses, although the smart glasses were first announced last year for a 2021 debut.
Apple is widely reported to be developing true AR glasses, but we’re not likely to see Cupertino's take on the concept until 2023 at the earliest, according to recent reports. That could give Facebook a window to launch these non-AR glasses with Ray-Ban while plugging away at a more robust AR offering.
That window could prove to be small, however: Snapchat recently unveiled its own AR Spectacles, Pokémon Go maker Niantic has teased its own AR glasses and a convincing leak showed Samsung’s own take on AR rims. It could be the next major gadget frontier for tech giants to battle over.
Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens, both earlier wearable AR projects, ultimately took more of a business market focus than a consumer one. Without a built-in screen, the Facebook/Ray-Ban smart glasses could take the form of Amazon’s Echo Frames, which have a built-in Alexa voice assistant, or Snap’s earlier Spectacles with built-in cameras.
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