Facebook has confirmed that it is working on augmented reality glasses. Speaking at TechCrunch‘s AR/VR event in Los Angeles, Ficus Kirkpatrick, Facebook’s head of augmented reality engineering said, “Yeah! Well of course we’re working on it.”
The confirmation comes just weeks after Facebook launched Portal, its own smart display with Alexa built-in and ability to do video chat via Messenger. Now, it seems the social media giant is ramping up its efforts in the hardware side of the business. “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 added.
Microsoft and Magic Leap are the only companies to show major head-mounted displays with augmented reality functions. There are number of other startups working on this product category but Facebook has confirmed that it is building such a product for the first time. This means that Facebook will soon compete with Apple, Microsoft and Google in the next wave of computing, which is believed to include AR headsets.
“We have no product to announce right now. But we have a lot of very talented people doing really, really compelling cutting-edge research that we hope plays a part in the future of headsets,” he said.
Facebook’s success can be owed to be companies like Apple and Google who helped it reach billions of user through their devices. Facebook distributes its applications through storefronts offered by Apple and Google, making it just a service provider and not the company designing both hardware and software. With its own AR headset, Facebook can control both the hardware and software for the first time.
Facebook already holds a leadership with Oculus in virtual reality and it has the necessary know-how to build its own AR glasses. A Facebook patent detailing use of waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner to project media onto the lenses was spotted last year and Cheddar had recently reported the company is working on Project Sequoia that uses projectors to display AR experiences on top of physical objects.
Explained: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality
Kirkpatrick believes that Facebook’s AR efforts will not just be a mixed reality feature for VR headsets. He says people will continue to live their normal life while also using augmented reality functions via the headset. In order to make it happen, Facebook is building its own display system.
“No off the shelf display technology is good enough for AR, so we had no choice but to develop a new display system. And that system also has the potential to bring VR to a different level,” Oculus’ Chief Scientist Michael Abrash said during the Connect 5 conference. However, Facebook‘s biggest challenge will be to convince consumers, especially those who have started to distrust the social media platform.