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Facebook is launching its Ray-Ban augmented reality glasses, Mark Zuckerberg says

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Facebook’s unrelated ‘Project Aria’ glasses (Facebook)
Facebook’s unrelated ‘Project Aria’ glasses (Facebook)

Facebook’s next hardware product will be its smart-glasses collaboration with Ray-Ban, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said.

“The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things”, Mr Zuckerberg said during the company’s earnings call.

“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”.

Mr Zuckerberg did not go into further details about what these “neat things” would be, and reports about what the glasses would do have been inconsistent.

In 2019, both CNBC and The Information said that the glasses would allow users to take calls, show information in a small display, and live-stream their perspective to others on social media – presumably through Facebook’s live video functionality or Instagram’s IGTV – in a manner similar to Snapchat’s Spectacles.

However, Facebook has denied rumours about the integrated display and does not classify the device as an augmented reality product.

Facebook’s move into new hardware, specifically augmented and virtual reality with its Oculus product, is part of its path to becoming a ‘metaverse company’ – something that Mr Zuckerberg said he hopes to pivot the social media giant towards.

The metaverse is a space that spans both physical and digital worlds where users can interact with other people and a fully functioning economy in real time. This could be through virtual or mixed reality, PCs, mobile devices, and game consoles that would all be connected.

Mr Zuckerberg described it as an “embodied internet” in a recent interview, and proposed it as an alternative to smartphones; “Mobile phones kind of came around at the same time as Facebook, so we didn’t really get to play a big role in shaping the development of those platforms”, Mr Zuckerberg said.

Smartphones mediating users’ access to Facebook has been a controversial topic recently, with Apple blocking off the advertising tracking on iPhones that generates vast profit for Facebook.

As well as the Ray-Ban collaboration, Facebook is also developing ‘Project Aria’ – smart glasses that would “add a 3D layer of useful, contextually-relevant and meaningful information on top of the physical world”. Although Aria was set to launch in 2021, the device seems to have been delayed due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Facebook smartwatch that will focus on the company’s suite of messaging apps and feature two detachable cameras is reportedly in development too, and future versions of that device could see it connect to the augmented reality glasses. It is currently unclear, however, whether that refers to Facebook’s upcoming hardware or Project Aria.

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