After months of speculation and media trying to poke into Facebook business plans, we finally have confirmation. Well, sort of. No announcements yet, but we do have an interview confirmation that the company is looking into creating their own Facebook AR Glasses.
‘Yeah! Well of course we’re working on it’ was the answer Facebook’s head of Augmented Reality, Ficus Kirkpatrick gave the other day. He then added:
“We are building hardware products. We’re going forward on this . . . We want to see those glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there.”
Kirkpatrick sounded excited yet somewhat baffled as if that’s not even a question. He further admits that Facebook has talent distributed all across the company doing ‘compelling, cutting-edge research’, with the crowning result directed towards their very own Augmented Reality glasses.
And this half-confirmation comes in the most delicate of moments. Considering the Augmented Reality tech scene, Magic Leap One is out, Thalmic Labs turned North gave us the Focals, and Microsoft is hard at work at new rendition of HoloLens. Amidst so much activity by it’s peers, Facebook cannot afford to be left behind, even before the race truly takes off. Particularly true for a giant like Facebook, who after years of smartphone dependency could finally come out with their own self-sufficient hardware.
Kirkpatrick’s patronizing ‘of course’ is the result of endless hints we received that Facebook AR Glasses are indeed in the works. There was a series of trustworthy or otherwise reports supporting the idea. Among the latest of them has spotted job listings for AR chip development positions at Facebook Reality Lab. The company officials also cued in to comment on AR potential, agreeing that ‘no off the shelf display technology is good enough for AR’ – Michael Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist. The technology has to be a new one.
Kirkpatrick, too, commented on the state of AR/VR today, but more importantly, shared his views on the morrow. ‘I think we’re still going to have lives that we have today’ he said. The ability to transform the future is peculiar to each technology, Virtual Reality being limited, he believes, to an escapist experience while AR is the one with more potential. ‘I think those things like the people you connect with, the things you’re doing… everything needs to be portable and on-the-go’. This on-the-go future is achievable only through Augmented Reality, and the immersive portability is the idea Facebook AR Glasses will go by.
Will the two technologies converge though? If so on what level? Facebooks AR/VR devices will likely be separate, possibly converging on software level only, Kirkpatrick agrees. There is also a privacy problem for Facebook. It’s old news for the company, but the new challenge of AR camera gathering info on the surroundings is not something to gloss over.
Nevertheless, Zuckerberg’s words of yesteryear still echo in the memory. Admitting that we are at least five years behind the technology to make the Facebook AR Glasses to be proud of. ‘VR is the path to get to those AR glasses’ he said. Even so, the companies are sure guilty of releasing spectacular demos knowing full well the stuff shown will have no consumer utility any time soon. Let the talented engineers do their thing instead, Facebook’s looks to be on the right path.