A Facebook executive has confirmed that the company is developing augmented reality glasses.
“Yeah! Well of course we’re working on it,” Facebook’s head of augmented reality Ficus Kirkpatrick said at TechCrunch’s AR/VR event in Los Angeles. “We are building hardware products. We’re going forward on this . . . We want to see those AR glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there.”
However, Kirkpatrick admitted, “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.”
Releasing AR headsets would put the social media giant in direct competition with AR startups like Magic Leap and Thalmic Labs. In addition, Microsoft has already released its HoloLens product, while Google Glass is still in development and Apple has acquired AR hardware developers Akonia Holographics and Vrvana to work on its own headsets.
Back in April 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We all know where we want this to get eventually, we want glasses,” but explained that “we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want. We may in five years, or seven years.” He added that “We can’t build the AR product that we want today, so building VR is the path to getting to those AR glasses.”
But a few months later a Facebook patent application for AR glasses was spotted that detailed using “waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner” to project media onto the lenses. And last month, four Facebook job listings looking for engineers with experience building custom AR computer chips were discovered.
Kirkpatrick was quick to point out that Facebook’s AR efforts will not just be a mixed reality feature of VR headsets. “I don’t think we converge to one single device . . . I don’t think we’re going to end up in a Ready Player One future where everyone is just hanging out in VR all the time,” he tells me. “I think we’re still going to have the lives that we have today where you stay at home and you have maybe an escapist, immersive experience or you use VR to transport yourself somewhere else. But I think those things like the people you connect with, the things you’re doing, the state of your apps and everything needs to be carried and portable on-the-go with you as well, and I think that’s going to look more like how we think about AR.”