Facebook says its first pair of consumer augmented reality glasses will be releasing next year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced during the opening keynote of its all-virtual Facebook Connect conference.
Facebook says the consumer device will be the culmination of work on an experimental research prototype it’s calling Project Aria, which the company will start testing in the real world by Facebook employees and contractors this month.
The company has talked for years about its plans to build an AR device that resembles a standard pair of glasses, and now the company says it’s working with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica to design the frames, confirming rumors last fall that the company had partnered with the Italian eyewear brand.
Beyond thrilled to finally share a sneak peek of our Facebook partnership with Ray-Ban! Our first smart glasses will launch next year, and that’s just the beginning… The future will be a classic and it’s coming in 2021 pic.twitter.com/l9992ZQGoy
— Hugo Barra (@hbarra) September 16, 2020
We don’t have any details on what Facebook’s AR glasses will be called, what they look like, or how much they might cost. But AR glasses designed to look like a standard piece of eyewear have become more common in recent years, with companies like North (now owned by Google) and Nreal developing pretty impressive devices.
Meanwhile, all the major tech giants — including Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, and others — have either already released AR glasses or are said to be working on them. Facebook in recent months has been more transparent about the work of its Reality Labs division, a group formed in 2018 to work on experimental projects like Facebook’s brain-interface project, futuristic AR glasses design, and other work that may influence product development at Oculus, the Portal videoconferencing team, and other groups.
The company earlier this year released white papers and prototype design images of what a hybrid AR-VR devices might look like in the future (potentially a version of Project Aria), and last year the Reality Labs division acquired neural interface startup CTRL-Labs. Facebook also detailed a project at last year’s Oculus Connect conference it calls Live Maps, which the company says will be integral to help people use AR glasses in the real world by helping blend the virtual and real. That way, AR glasses can “download the most recent data from the 3D map, and then only have to detect changes — like new street names or the appearance of a new parking garage, and update the 3D map with those changes.”