At the fittingly virtual event, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced that not only will Facebook employees soon be testing Facebook’s own AR glasses prototype, part of a research initiative known as Project Aria, but that device will arrive for consumers next year.
“We don’t have a product yet to share with you today but I am excited to share that we have formed a multi-year partnership starting with building and releasing our first pair of smart glasses next year,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg also announced a multi-year partnership with luxury eyewear giant Luxottica, which owns Ray-Ban and Oakley, among many other brands. Zuckerberg suggested that the Luxottica partnership would help accommodate an array of styles and preferences that people might have for the devices.
In a produced video that wasn’t a demo of the device itself, Facebook showed off some theoretical uses for its AR glasses: getting an overlay of street directions, music recommendations in a record store or even visual alert showing you where your lost keys went.
In 2018, Facebook confirmed that it was indeed building a pair of augmented reality glasses. “We want to see those glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there,” Facebook’s head of augmented reality Ficus Kirkpatrick told TechCrunch at the time.
Its own privacy scandals notwithstanding, Facebook seems to keenly recall the rocky early days of Google Glass, an ahead-of-its-time product with a launch marred by user privacy concerns over the device’s built-in camera. Andrew Bosworth, Head of Facebook Reality Labs, was quick to emphasize that Facebook will undergo testing with its device.
Bosworth notes that the test version of Project Aria glasses isn’t a working prototype, calling it a “precursor to working AR” that doesn’t have a functional heads-up display.
Beginning this month, a handful of “specially trained” Facebook employees and contract workers will be sporting Project Aria glasses to test the research device in real world conditions. Those testers will help Facebook understand things it can’t figure out in the lab, like what sensors need to go into the hardware and what kind of data the glasses should and shouldn’t collect.