Facebook and Apple — The race to launch Smart Glasses

When you combine a brand that is loved and worn by millions of consumers around the globe with the technology that has brought the world closer together, you get a wearable technology that is going to open up a new dimension in the way people see and connect with the world around them.

Facebook, the social network giant along with French eyewear company Essilor Luxottica, the makers of Ray-Ban branded glasses, announced a multi-year partnership and plan to release their first smart glass as early as next year.

The Goal

The goal is to have normal sized, everyday glasses, interact with holograms, digital objects, and other digital information while still be present with the people and world around you. —Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

In layman terms, augmented reality means to add virtual or digital objects into your real life. With AR, you can watch time, navigate, read messages and notifications, get health status, and a lot more, all in front of your eyes, while still being able to interact with the world around you.

source: Tech Crunch — reading notifications on an AR smart glass
source: ColdFusionTV — augmenting a dinosaur in your neighborhood.

With AR, you can either have a pet dinosaur or play poker with your friends. Rather than video calling your loved ones, you can have them sitting in front of you. The choice is all yours.

As per Mark Zuckerberg, ‘In future, instead of a video chat, I’ll just be sitting on my couch and you can just appear on the couch next to me, or I can appear into your house. And part of why that’s going to be a lot better than video chat is that then we’ll be able to have virtual objects that we can interact with together. For example, if we want to play a game of cards, a deck of cards will appear, and we can play virtually.’

Is AR the future of how we see and interact with the world?

source: CNET Highlights

Satellites — Since the 1960s, satellites have been used to capture the images of the earth, our cities, and our streets to put into a map. However, they are limited when it comes to the clarity i.e. image resolution, and any update to the map since it depends on when the satellite will again take the image of the same location.

Aerials & Cars — Aerials like low-flying aircraft & Cars equipped with high-resolution cameras and other location trackers, can provide data capture at a higher resolution with increased update rates but they’re limited to outdoor environments.

Backpacks — A person carrying a backpack can map indoor spaces at high resolution but is unable to fully capture the wide range of outside environments relevant to our daily lives.

AR & AI Wearables — Wearables like smart glasses, which are affordable and can be worn by billions around the world, wearing which people will be able to travel to remote places, then becomes the next big thing. It can help in the detailed representation of a map, as well as it will support real-time updating of the Map, like real-time traffic status update in Google Maps.

The AR-based wearable device data capture technology based mapping will one day enable anyone with an AR device to build and use live maps wherever and whenever they need, based on data from their own devices particularly AR glasses.

The use of wearable data will make it possible to construct higher resolution maps that are dynamically updated at a much higher frequency and will enable mapping of a far greater spectrum of environments than has been possible with any previous mapping technology.

Project Aria — Facebook’s attempt at AR

The Design

As discussed earlier, it will be a regular looking pair of glasses. The following images show the research glass used for Project Aria. It is equipped with sensors, both inward and outward sensors.

source: Facebook — Outward and inward sensors

While the outward sensors are used to interpret the world, the inward sensors are used to track your eye movement to know where to show you the information on the glasses.

source: CNET Highlights

There will be an app that will connect to the smart glasses. All the data collected from the glasses will be sent to the phone via the app for further processing. The glasses’ on-device computing power will be used to encrypt and store information that, when uploaded to separate, designated back-end storage systems, will help Facebook researchers “figure out how AR can work in the real world.”

source: CNET Highlights: The trajectory of the device is calculated from both the camera as the glass’s wearer interacts in an apartment setting.

The Building Blocks

Facebook is already developing and integrating the building blocks together like the input system, the display system, spatial audio, neuroscience, and engineering. Use of subtle gestures like the flick of the fingers to control AR objects. There are a lot of variables associated to achieve real-life experience through AR.

The Limitations

Project Aria is not in itself an AR device since it lacks a display, and it is neither a product nor a prototype of a product and will not be for sale. It is a research tool, and it is a critical step on the path to live maps and the interface of the future.

The Roadmap

Starting this month, Facebook says the company will start testing Aria in the real world with Facebook employees and contractors that will gather information about “video, audio, eye-tracking, and location data” to hammer out tough issues around areas like privacy, video recording, and design.

The final verdict on Facebook Ray-Ban collaboration

The smart Ray-Bans will not have a display but may feature recording capacity or a voice-activated assistant, as per The Verge.

In an interview with Reuters, Facebook Reality Labs head Michael Abrash said, “the limitation on developing commercially viable AR glasses is that the required display and audio hardware cannot at present be built into the required slim form factor for spectacles. To be viable, smart glasses need to weigh in at under 2.5 ounces (70 grams). Those glasses are still years off.”

The Potentials Competitors

source: Nreal

AR smart glasses designed to look like standard pieces of eyewear have become more common in recent years, with companies like North (now owned by Google) (North Focals) and Nreal developing impressive devices. Meanwhile, all the major tech giants — including Amazon(Echo Frames), Google(Google Glass 2), Intel(Vaunt smart glasses), and others — have either already released a device in the smart glasses or AR category, or are said to be actively working on something.

source: Apple Glass Concept Images Copyright 2018, iDrop News.

Although the above companies have tried their hand in the AR category for a while now, the biggest potential threat for Facebook can very well be Apple. Apple needs no introduction when it comes to making and selling quality products to its customers.

The First-mover advantage

Riding the waves of change makes everything in business easier. You gain support easier, you make money easier, and you grow a lot faster especially when you’re at the very start of a wave.

Apple and Facebook are both trying to take that advantage of the first-mover wave. In the digital age, nothing is more important than data. Imagine the amount of data they will get if they are able to make everyone wear their smart glasses.

Apple in recent years has been overly aggressive when it comes to selling its products by introducing a wide variety of products ranging from iPhones to Apple Watch, in a variety of configurations and colors. However, they have been particularly aggressive when it comes to reaching a new audience by introducing their latest products at an affordable price point by cutting down on their profit margin.

source: Barclay Sloan

Another reason Apple is a potential threat to Facebook is its ecosystem, the Apple ecosystem. Apple is already selling everything from a smartphone to laptop, desktop, smartwatches, credit card, along with other Apple services like Apple Music, Apple TV, and a lot more. So wearable technology starting with Apple Glass is indeed the next massive thing Apple is eyeing for.

source: FPT

Apple Glass — According to a famous Apple leaker, Jon Prosser, Apple is all set to announce their new Apple Glasses in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021 and the glasses will be available to the public by Q4 2021 or Q1 2022. Considering the timeline one can assume that Apple is already testing their Glasses out in the open.

If the leak is anything to be believed in, then Facebook’s rush to launch its smart glasses is no surprise.

Conclusion

A couple of decades ago, it was impossible for a common person to be able to call someone while-on-the-go, from anywhere, to anywhere. With the convenience of a feature phone/wireless phone, this was achieved.

Till a decade ago, no one would have imagined talking to someone by video calling them. Having multiple people group video calls or the ability to conduct meetings digitally are now a reality.

So, is AR the future? Certainly Yes. While there can be opposing views about this, but AR is right outside, knocking on the door of the new decade of mobile computing, connecting, and collaborating with the people and the world around us.

Change is an inevitable part of reality and the change is here to add to your reality. So, are you excited about the future of AR and are your ready to augment AR in your life?

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