Facebook sparked a flurry of excitement last September when it announced that the first iteration of its AR glasses - currently being tested under the title 'Project Aria' - would be available in stores sometime in 2021, pointing to the next stage of social and digital connectivity.
But Facebook has since sought to temper expectations, with the company's AR and VR chief Andrew Bosworth noting that the first stage of its wearable device will not be fully-AR enabled. But that next level is coming, sometime on the horizon - and today, the company has provided some more insight into its plans for AR, and engagement with digital devices that it says will form the next major computing shift.
"Say you decide to walk to your local cafe to get some work done. You’re wearing a pair of AR glasses and a soft wristband. As you head out the door, your Assistant asks if you’d like to listen to the latest episode of your favorite podcast. A small movement of your finger lets you click “play.” As you enter the cafe, your Assistant asks, “Do you want me to put in an order for a 12-ounce Americano?” Not in the mood for your usual, you again flick your finger to click “no.”
Facebook provides a few examples of this type in its new overview, which points to where it's focused in this respect, and how it plans to eventually implement AR tools.
"You head to a table, but instead of pulling out a laptop, you pull out a pair of soft, lightweight haptic gloves. When you put them on, a virtual screen and keyboard show up in front of you and you begin to edit a document. Typing is just as intuitive as typing on a physical keyboard and you’re on a roll, but the noise from the cafe makes it hard to concentrate."
Facebook equates this next shift to the invention of the PC mouse, which revolutionized how people interact with computers. AR, in Facebook's view, will serve that same purpose, with tools that are able to assist and complement all of our day-to-day activities as needed, via a combination of sensory detection, AI and other connective elements.
That will also lead to new advances in marketing and advertising, with the capacity to showcase products and offers within people's digital eyeline, or in relation to where they are or what they might be doing. The possibilities, as Facebook notes, are endless - but while such developments are exciting, Facebook says that we're still a way off yet.
"Building the AR interface is a difficult, long-term undertaking, and there are years of research yet to do. But by planting the seeds now, we believe we can get to AR’s Engelbart moment and then get that interface into people’s hands over the next 10 years, even as it continues to evolve for decades to come."
So while Facebook is planning to launch its new glasses sometime this year - which it's now calling 'smart glasses' - we're likely still several years away from this next stage, where your digital activity is seamlessly integrated into your everyday life.
But it is coming, and likely still sooner than most think. The descriptions above still feel very sci-fi, but these are what Facebook is developing and working on, and the indicators here are that they already know how all of these functions will intersect.
And as those functions are developed, so too will come new opportunities.
It's interesting to consider, and to factor into your strategic thinking for where we go next.