Hoping to avoid the failure that was the consumer version of Google Glass, Facebook has teamed up with Luxottica, the parent company of brands like Ray-Ban, to help with the development of its own augmented reality glasses, sources told CNBC. But it could still be at least three years before Facebook’s smart specs actually hit the market.
According to the CNBC report, Facebook has been developing its own augmented reality glasses at its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, for a few years now. But the project, code-named Orion, has reportedly seen enough troubles – including miniaturising the hardware into a device consumers would actually want to wear – that Facebook has partnered with Luxottica for assistance. Although it remains to be seen what the glasses maker can offer the social media giant aside from a manufacturing pipeline for lens and frames.
The partnership could see the glasses arrive as early as 2023, according to CNBC, and they would purportedly be positioned as an alternative to constantly checking a smartphone, giving wearers access to information like notifications and text messages through a small display in the lens. The AR glasses may also potentially work with a voice-activated smart assistant that Facebook is developing to compete with Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, which would allow the glasses to do everything from place calls to transcribe messages, to perform quick searches. It’s also safe to assume that accessing Facebook and posting updates would be a key part of the AR glasses’ functionality.
With access to Oculus’ technology, whose VR headsets are arguably some of the most successful glasses-based devices, Facebook seems well-positioned to deliver an AR glasses product that consumers might actually embrace. But it will face stiff competition from Google, which continues to develop Google Glass (even if it’s currently only targeted to professionals) and Apple, which is rumoured to be working on its own AR headset. Facebook might now be in a position to win the race, but it will need to deliver a better experience than the Facebook Phone did to capitalise on that victory.