Facebook’s next hardware launch won’t be a smartwatch or another Portal product. Instead, it will be a pair of Ray-Ban “smart glasses,” according to Mark Zuckerberg. The glasses won’t have an integrated display or perform AR functions, though they will “do some pretty neat things.”
What’s so neat about the Facebook Ray-Bans? Well, that’s still a mystery. But without AR functionality, smart Ray-Bans probably not all that different from Amazon’s Echo Frames—that may mean a built-in personal speaker, a microphone, and smart assistant support. Facebook could also find a way to integrate these smart glasses with Messenger or Instagram, possibly through the use of a built-in camera.
Either way, the smart glasses will retain Ray-Bans’ iconic design, and they might be sunglasses. That could have a wider appeal than Amazon’s thick Echo Frames, which can’t piggyback off a trendy brand and are really only useful to myopic adults.
It’s worth clarifying that the smart Ray-Bans are very different from Facebook’s Project Aria frames, which will use AR technology to blur the line between the internet and real life. The Project Aria AI glasses will probably take several years to come out, and even then, pricing may be an obstacle for Facebook.
While we wait for Project Aria to launch, Facebook will probably try to flood the market with smaller smart products, like the smart Ray-Bans and rumored smartwatch. These products will contribute to Facebook’s “Metaverse,” which is basically a mixed-reality (or AR-heavy) lifestyle that revolves around Facebook services.
The goal of the Metaverse isn’t to sell hardware, but to make Facebook an invasive aspect in every corner of your life. Facebook can use the Metaverse to serve ads, collect and sell data, and even encourage you to buy products through Facebook-owned marketplaces (Instagram users know). Of course, there are many ways that we could benefit from this relationship, just as we may benefit from Facebook’s existing platforms today.
The Metaverse will also help Facebook run business on its own terms instead of fighting with hardware makers like Apple and Google. But that depends on how much success the company finds with new products like the smart Ray-Bans. Old rumors suggested that the Ray-Bans would launch this year, but a 2022 release seems more likely now that we’re entering August.