Facebook is reportedly developing augmented reality (AR) glasses with a twist. These won’t be tethered to a mobile device, but will instead work as a standalone product that could replace smartphones. Facebook aims to release the product by 2025, but the company doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to making hardware that people actually want to buy. Remember the first and only Facebook Phone?
That HTC-made phone never had a future. Plus, Facebook isn’t at the top of the list of companies you’d trust with your mobile data. And yet, Facebook’s smart glasses that could potentially replace the smartphone would essentially mean you’d have to rely on Facebook for everything smartphone-related.
Nevertheless, Mark Zuckerberg and company seem to think that smart glasses will one day replace smartphones. They’re not alone, and it will probably happen at some point in the not too distant future. But for such a product to exist, we still need plenty both when it comes to mobile hardware and software. Smartphone components would have to be further miniaturized to fit inside glasses frames. On the software side, we’d need virtual assistants capable of taking commands for anything that we’d normally do on the phone using touch.
Facebook’s glasses project is codenamed Orion, CNBC reports, with the first model having been in development for about two years:
The glasses would allow users to take calls, show information to users in a small display and live-stream their vantage point to their social media friends and followers.
But the company ran into trouble and sought help from Ray-Ban owner Luxottica. The object of the partnership is to get Facebook glasses in stores between 2023 and 2025. Apparently, Facebook has been struggling to reduce the size of the device into a form factor that people would find appealing.
Facebook is also developing an AI voice assistant that would act as a user input for the glasses. The AR glasses may be paired with a secondary controller, a ring device (project Agios) that would allow the user to input information via motion sensors. While there’s no guarantee that Facebook will ever ship this new product, Zuckerberg is prioritizing their development, according to the report.
Separately, The Information says that Facebook’s first smart glasses will be more of a Snap Spectacles equivalent — because of course Facebook would want to copy something Snapchat did first.
Also developed with Ray-Ban, these “Stella” glasses would work just like Spectacles. You’d be able to record video with cameras inside the frame, with Facebook also providing a voice assistant and a mobile app store:
With the Stella glasses and Ray-Ban partnership, Facebook wants to test whether people will feel comfortable wearing a Facebook-branded product on their faces, the person with knowledge of the project said. Snap popularized the concept first with the release of Spectacles in 2016. Facebook hopes to ship the Stella glasses within the next couple of years.
Assuming Facebook goes to production with these devices, Stella would probably precede Orion. By the time that happens, however, other tech giants may have AR glasses in stores you’d actually pay to own.