Facebook’s booming business is dominated by digital ads, but the platform also has hardware ambitions beyond VR. During the company’s latest earnings conference call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his next product launch would be a pair of Ray-Ban smart glasses.
“The glasses have their iconic shape and allow you to do really interesting things,” said the Facebook co-founder. “So I’m excited to put them in people’s hands and continue to make progress on the journey towards full augmented reality glasses in the future.”
Facebook’s sunglasses have been rumored since 2019. At that time, sources told CNBC that Facebook was working with Ray-Ban owner EssilorLuxottica on AR sunglasses dubbed “Orion.” The glasses were advertised as a complete replacement for the phone on which one could receive calls, view information and even broadcast live. This inevitably prompted comparisons to Google Glass (another Luxottica collaboration) rather than Snap’s phone-on glasses. Last year, Hugo Barra, then VP VR of Facebook Reality Labs, confirmed that the glasses would come out in 2021. But, not much has been known since then.
The term metaverse is the latest buzzword adopted by Silicon Valley and futurists. Although the concept has been around for over a decade, it gained traction following the massive success of multiplayer game creation platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox. Earlier this week, Microsoft head Satya Nadella mentioned an “enterprise metaverse” on his company’s earnings conference call.
For Facebook, metaverse is more than a fad. The company is spending billions to build its shared universe, which will be filled with Facebook users and digital ads, according to Zuckerberg. For this to become a reality, the company needs more people to buy its computer hardware. So the plan is to make these devices more affordable.
“Our business model won’t be primarily around trying to sell devices at a grand prix or something, because our mission is to serve as many people as possible,” Zuckerberg noted. “We want to make everything we do as accessible as possible so that as many people as possible can participate and then increase the size of the digital economy within it. So that’s how I’m thinking at a high level about it.”
Sunglasses aren’t the only hardware Facebook is supposedly working on. Several reports claim that Facebook is developing a smartwatch with a built-in cell phone connection and a detachable screen. Initially, it was believed that the watch would be the first to be released, but it appears that Zuckerberg had other plans.