Behind Mark Zuckerberg big plans for AR glasses

Behind Mark Zuckerberg big plans for AR glasses

Mark Zuckerberg has a great view of metaverses, and he hopes you’ll see the same one day too — literally, through a pair of augmented reality glasses.

Zuckerberg describes augmented reality glasses as the “holy grail” that will “redefine our relationship with technology,” similar to the introduction of smartphones. During the special effects-filled video announcing Facebook’s rebranding to Meta last October, they acted as connective tissue for the metaverse, allowing people to play games and work with virtual humans. Star Trek-pattern. At one point, Zuckerberg wore them during a fence with a hologram. “Don’t be afraid to get stabbed,” his hypothetical sparring partner quipped.

Zuckerberg may have high hopes for smart glasses, but the near-term reality of the technology is far less important. Demos during Zuckerberg’s Meta presentation, such as playing virtual chess at a real table with a person’s avatar, weren’t dependent on which hardware or software is running. And Meta doesn’t yet have a working wearable prototype of the augmented reality goggles planned, but rather a static demo placed on a table.

However, Zuckerberg has ambitious goals when his high-tech eyeglasses become a reality. Staff are racing to deliver the first generation by 2024 and are already working on a lighter, more advanced design for 2026, to be followed by a third in 2028. The details, which together give the first comprehensive look at the ambitions of the AR Meta hardware, have been shared with the edge By people familiar with the roadmap and not authorized to speak publicly. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Behind Mark Zuckerberg big plans for AR glasses

Mark Zuckerberg photographing a hologram during his vision presentation last October.
Photo: dead

People familiar with his thinking say activating the push for augmented reality glasses and renaming Facebook to Meta is Zuckerberg’s desire to make the company he founded innovative again. The social network’s reputation has been tainted by a series of privacy scandals and content moderation, which has damaged employee morale and their faith in leadership. Regulators are trying to break up the company and curb its personalized advertising business. Among his peers in Silicon Valley, he became known as a ruthless imitator.

If augmented reality glasses and other future devices that Meta is building finally catch on, they could shed light on the company, and thus Zuckerberg, in a new light. Zuke’s ego is intertwined with [the glasses],” a former employee who worked on the project told me. “He wants it to be an iPhone moment.”

The Meta CEO also sees augmented reality glasses, dubbed Project Nazare, as a way out from under the thumbs of Apple and Google, which together dictate the terms that apps like Facebook must adhere to on mobile phones. The first version of Nazare was designed to operate independently of a mobile phone with the help of a radiotelephone-shaped device that offloads bits of computing required to operate the glasses. A notable feature will be the ability to communicate and interact with other people’s holograms through glasses, which Zuckerberg believes will over time provide people with a more immersive and engaging experience than video calling exists today.

Although billions have already been spent developing its own augmented reality glasses, Meta internally has a lukewarm sales forecast in the low tens of thousands for the first release, which will target early adopters and developers. The price point has not been determined, but the device will certainly be more expensive than the company’s $299 Quest VR headset, given the augmented reality glasses’ materials bill is several thousand dollars. The cost will test Zuckerberg’s willingness to subsidize the price of hardware to encourage adoption — a competitive strategy aimed in part at reducing margins enjoyed by other players like Apple.

In addition to the Nazare, a separate pair of cheaper, previously unreported Hypernova smart glasses are also planned for 2024. The Nazare is designed to work independently of a smartphone, but the Hypernova will pair with a nearby phone to show incoming messages and other notifications through a smaller screen display Similar to the Nordic smart glasses that Google acquired two years ago.

Along with its recently introduced Nazare, Hypernova and future versions of Ray-Ban camera-equipped eyeglasses, Meta hopes to sell tens of millions of smart glasses by the end of this decade, AR Vice President Alex Himel told staff.

Behind Mark Zuckerberg big plans for AR glasses

The demo shows how Meta imagines augmented reality glasses could work to allow someone to play chess using a 3D image.
Photo: dead

It is not clear whether people will find augmented reality glasses useful in the next few years. Similar products from Microsoft, Snap and others are far from mainstream. The stakes could not be greater for Meta. Its division that makes metaverse hardware and related software has swelled to nearly 18,000 people, costing the company $10 billion in the past year alone. To build future glasses and virtual reality devices, Meta has aggressively acquired Microsoft, Apple, Google, and others, driving up talent prices across the industry.

Zuckerberg said he plans to spend more on building augmented and virtual reality devices in the coming years, a huge bet taking place at a time when his company is under pressure from all sides. Meta stock has been hit by the slowdown in the social media business and the flock of younger users to competitors like TikTok. The antitrust scrutiny essentially ruled out large acquisitions that led to growth in the past, such as the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp. Having disrupted the core Meta ad business with recent tracking changes in iOS, Apple is preparing to attack Zuckerberg’s hardware strategy as well, starting with a high-end mixed reality headset as early as this year and eventually its own augmented reality glasses.

Since Nazare was taken out of research in 2018 with the internal codename Orion, Zuckerberg has shown a particular interest in the project. “It’s like the eye of Sauron,” says one former team member, referring to the eye that sees everything inside. Lord of the rings. (Zuckerberg himself recently admitted in a podcast that employees sometimes use the phrase to explain his heavy involvement in a project.)

Zuckerberg insisted that the first version of Nazare offers a complete AR experience with 3D graphics, a large field of view, and socially acceptable design. The team originally hoped it would boast a 70-degree field of view – much wider than what’s currently on the market – but that goal likely won’t be achieved. The current eyewear design is somewhat similar to Superman’s black frames when he disguises himself as Clark Kent. They weigh 100 grams, which is about four times more than an ordinary pair of regular glasses.

As Meta races towards the ship’s 2024 goal, there is no guarantee that Nazare will achieve that goal. The year of her ship has slipped several times. Much work is still in progress on product trial, particularly on the software side. An attempt to build a custom microkernel operating system for the device was scrapped from a version of Google’s open source Fuchsia OS at the end of last year, in part because it wouldn’t be ready in time for 2024. (the information I previously reported on the decision to scrap the microkernel.) Now Meta is releasing an Android-based version of the first version of its augmented reality glasses — an approach similar to what supports the company’s current Quest VR headset.

The Nazare won’t be a major device, at least not at first. The current battery life is only four hours, and the glasses are designed for mostly indoor use. Although it will take some time before the glasses will be sold in large quantities, Zuckerberg has spared no expense. The displays are powered by expensive custom waveguides and microLED projectors. The first version will have eye tracking and a front camera, along with stereo sound in the frame. Employees are working with semiconductor factories in Asia to build custom chips for the roadmap planned for the latter half of this decade.

Behind Mark Zuckerberg big plans for AR glasses

Last October, Meta gave a conceptual demonstration of how an EMG wristband could work to allow people to type without a physical keyboard.
Photo: dead

Perhaps the most futuristic aspect of the early versions of both the Nazare and Hypernova is a wrist device that the Meta plans to bundle with the glasses to control, virtually, with the wearer’s mind — something that is likely to be the company’s next big privacy hurdle. The wristband uses differential electromyography, or EMG, to measure electrical impulses in nerve cells in the arm, essentially creating a phantom limb effect that the wearer can use to interact with the glasses. The result is that anyone can basically think of writing or controlling a virtual interface, which Meta believes will help interact with smart glasses that don’t have a touch screen, mouse, or keyboard. The technology builds on the company’s acquisition of a startup called CTRL-Labs worth nearly $1 billion in 2019.

Everyone I’ve talked to who’s tried a prototype for the band Meta is working on says it’s one of the most impressive tech shows they’ve ever tried. If it works at scale, the company thinks it could have the next mouse and keyboard. The focus was on making EMG work through the screen and other technologies built into the wristband. “If CTLR-Labs succeeds, none of these other things will matter,” according to a former Meta senior employee.

In the near term, Meta is planning to launch its first ever smartwatch as soon as this year. While the first and second versions will not be integrated with CTRL-Labs technology, the plan is for the third generation to include it and link it with the Nazare and Hypernova debuts in 2024. A second version of the company’s smart glasses with Ray-Ban is also in the works, Like the information I mentioned recently. Meta sold about 120,000 pairs of glasses with Ray-Ban during the period they went on sale last September through December, missing its initial target of 300,000. On the VR side, a high-quality headset codenamed Cambria is being equipped with pass-through video capable of blending the real and virtual worlds later this year, ahead of a similar device that Apple plans to release.

As Zuckerberg’s engagement with Nazari deepened and the project became a greater priority, the team saw a fair amount of sales, with the new heads of product, design and software leaving. He has appointed the company’s old leaders to key positions, reporting to CTO Andrew Bosworth. The vice president of AR who oversees all eyewear products under Bosworth, Alex Himel, has been with the company for 13 years. The direct leader of Nizar under Himmel is Soo Young, who has worked at Facebook for ten years. Two other senior leaders on the team are Caitlin Kalinowski, the head of hardware engineering, who recently moved out of running hardware for Oculus, and former Microsoft CEO Don Box, who now runs software engineering for eyeglasses.

Although Zuckerberg has already staked his claim on the metaverse, it will be a long time for augmented reality glasses to gain mainstream appeal. “You have to be really evangelistic to see it through,” says one of the people involved with Nazari. “It will take decades.”

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