Facebook has announced it's working on augmented reality (AR) glasses that it says will launch next year. It says it's essential AR glasses be as comfortable to wear as regular glasses, and to this end, it's partnering with Luxottica, the world's largest sunglasses maker that's behind brands like Tom Ford, Oakley, Persol, and Ray-Ban, along with eyewear for luxury brands like Armani, Polo, and Versace.
The first brand in the Luxottica stable the company has confirmed it'll partner with is Ray-Ban. AR aviators? AR wayfarers? We'll have to wait a little longer to find out.
Coming next year — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the glasses will first go on sale next year, but hasn't committed to a date. The announcement came during Facebook Connect, the new name for the company's annual Oculus-focused event.
“We are especially proud of our collaboration with Facebook, which projects an iconic brand like Ray-Ban into an increasingly digital and social future. Combining a brand that is loved and worn by millions of consumers around the globe with technology that has brought the world closer together, we can reset expectations around wearables," says Rocco Basilico, Luxottica's head of wearables. "We are paving the way for a new generation of products destined to change the way we look at the world."
No relation to Project Aria — Zuckerberg also teased a selection of AR and VR interfaces, including a person typing on the surface of a table while wearing a VR headset, another where clicking a finger could help navigate a VR menu, and a third that included a wrist-worn device. These all form part of Project Aria, an initiative Facebook says is separate from its AR glasses, despite the obvious overlaps.
Coming this September, select Facebook employees will start Project Aria prototypes on the company's campus to help work out the kinks before a mainstream launch. Those "kinks" will include deciding when and how smart glasses and related technologies should be used, whether they'll offer a visual indication of when the camera(s) is active, and all of the other issues that consumers and privacy advocates alike are likely to worry about.
Facebook will of course be wary of facing the same sort of backlash that saw Google Glass wearers dubbed "Glassholes" — often not unreasonably — and the devices banned by numerous bars and restaurants.
Input and output — Input and output (or I/O) form the basis of human interaction with computers. Facebook says one of the solutions for an AR interface it's looking at is "electromyography" (EMG) which turns hand movements into AR actions by reading signals from the wrist. Initially, EMG will require a wrist-worn sensor, and will be limited in functionality. But Facebook says it expects the company will eventually be able to use an EMG for typing or other multi-digit inputs.
UPDATE (6:45 p.m. ET): Facebook's partnership with Luxottica is wholly separate from its Project Aria research initiative. We've updated the story to make this more explicit.