Facebook, the social media giant, teamed with Ray-Ban, the sunglasses company, to develop a pair of smart glasses and the big reveal seems to be coming very soon based upon a recent teaser by Ray-Ban. While little was given away in the image, a fair amount of information has been shared by Facebook recently in its research and discussions about the metaverse. A review of what is known so far will be explored in advance of the official announcement, which is now just a couple of days away.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been speaking about the metaverse quite a bit lately, bringing one of the first looks at one implementation to the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headset. Facebook Workrooms allow multiple people to enter a shared workspace in virtual reality (VR) while still accessing a laptop. This is accomplished using the Quest 2’s cameras to identify the location of the user’s hands and fingers relative to the physical keyboard and recreating a matching keyboard in VR. It’s quite advanced and works surprisingly well. Screen sharing is also possible, in effect teleporting coworkers to a shared virtual room. Whether this aids productivity and teamwork is yet to be determined. Either way, it does feel like a glimpse of the future of VR.
The results of Facebook’s partnership with Ray-Ban to develop smart glasses is nearing the big reveal with the teaser image that was shared by Ray-Ban giving the date of September 9, 2021, on a silhouette of a pair of glasses. Radiating red lines might suggest connectivity to the internet or cloud storage. On the other hand, this might simply be a design flourish. While Facebook has made few official statements about the purpose of this particular device, a manual from a test version of a smart headset was leaked recently and it was primarily designed to record video. The Verge points out that what might be teaser videos have appeared in recent Tweets from Facebook’s head of AR Andrew Bosworth. Zuckerberg also shared videos on his Facebook wall.
While Facebook is a polarizing company, Ray-Ban is known for its polarized lenses. Whether the product will be well received, given Facebook’s ongoing public image of infringing upon user privacy, is a much less humorous issue to grapple with. Google found its innovative Google Glass virtually dead even before being officially launched due to privacy concerns. Snap, the developer of the Snapchat app, didn’t score much interest in its video recording glasses, Spectacles, which launched in 2016. Times have changed, however, and technology has improved so Facebook might have better success than those earlier efforts. Still, the privacy concerns will be a major hurdle and calling these ‘Ray-Ban glasses’ will not fool anyone about where any data, photos, or videos might end up. Facebook is clearly leading this project and drawing upon Ray-Ban’s expertise in design, comfort, and fashion.
When the product is revealed several questions will be answered, but many might remain. Most important will be whether this is anything more than a photo and video capture device. If it has AR capabilities, that will really advance Facebook’s credibility for the metaverse angle. Something else that might work in Facebook’s favor versus the earlier attempts is Facebook’s ability and willingness to absorb some big losses in order to establish a new product category. It did this with its Oculus Quest, launching at an incredibly low price and even funding game development to ensure the device had some interesting content upon launch. It might be an uphill battle to get AR glasses into the public sphere, but Zuckerberg has made it clear that this is a very important direction for Facebook and the company is ready to invest significantly to push it forward.