During Facebook Connect – the replacement for the AR / VR event previously known as Oculus Connect – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today that the company plans to release its first augmented reality glasses in 2021. While the company’s Oculus unit has become a leader, Facebook, provider of VR headsets, has touted AR as the next major frontier for computers, and this release date could bring next-generation technology to the masses sooner than expected.

Zuckerberg confirmed that he had worked with fashion eyewear company EssilorLuxottica to develop the product “Smart Glasses” and suggested that it would be cosmetically pleasing under the brand name Ray-Ban. Companies haven’t released pictures of the glasses yet, but it’s important to note that Facebook’s plans have at least two phases – first wearable with basic functionality, then a future full-featured AR device with more functionality. Facebook confirmed its strategy for multiple prototypes last year.

Work on the future platform is currently continuing under the name “Project Aria”, including a collection of various AR technologies, such as: B. research glasses and wearable controllers that will influence Facebook’s future AR products. Prototype versions of the controls are shown above in reality and below as 3D rendered in VR.

The wrist-based controls use electromyography – also known as EMG – to pinpoint finger movements close to the intended movement, so users can type on a virtual keyboard with true keyboard quality with precision. Assuming users are ready to wear them, they would greatly improve the user’s input capabilities after glasses-based gesture recognition. Facebook is also working on audio technology that can be used to filter ambient noise in the field. It uses microphones to adjust the gain to bring out important local details, and speakers allow you to hear other people’s audio.

Above: Facebook’s Aria AR research glasses project.

Photo credit: Facebook

Project Aria is not sold to consumers and is only intended to determine how the technology should and should not evolve into a finished product. Facebook testers will be wearing Aria headsets in public starting this month to collect data while solving the challenging privacy, transparency and inclusivity issues that AR could pose. Last year, a report suggested that the full headset be released between 2023 and 2025.

Smaller competitors like Nreal have already released AR glasses with Android phones that are reminiscent of sunglasses, betting that consumers will be drawn to $ 500 worth of wearables using processing hardware they already have in their pockets. Magic Leap is known to have released somewhat unusual round glasses attached to a large puck-shaped computer that users wear when moving around physical spaces. Magic Leap 1 was priced at $ 2,295, a price that would never have risen among consumers, and the company officially moved out of the consumer AR space earlier this year in favor of a corporate focus.

Among other things, Facebook expects AR glasses to be used to overlay navigation data and personally relevant data over a user’s live views of reality so that people can locate objects and destinations without having to look at smartphones or other map solutions. The social media company also suggested that users could see AR-generated holograms of people they are talking to who are sitting in the same room as if they were all in one physical room.