If you were to summarize the path Snap has taken towards augmented reality smartglasses with a meme template, how it started would be the first-generation Spectacles camera glasses and how it’s going would be the next-generation Spectacles with AR capabilities.
However, it appears Facebook will start its consumer-grade smartglasses journey at the wrist.
Facebook has been quite open about its plans for smartglasses. Those plans include CTRL-Labs, a brain control interface (BCI) startup funded by Google and Amazon that Facebook acquired in 2019. The technology from CTRL-Labs intercepts nerve signals at the wrist to interpret user intent, which can assist in accuracy and speed of hand gesture interpretation for AR interfaces.
Now, according to an unsourced report from The Verge, Facebook plans to launch its own smartwatch with a detachable screen and cameras next year, mainly as a standalone alternative to smartphones in its quest to circumvent Apple and Google.
It’s in future iterations where the smartwatch’s role as an AR wearable enter the picture. Facebook reportedly plans to integrate the nerve-tapping technology into the smartwatch, making it an accessory working in tandem with its smartglasses. The report aligns with previous Facebook communications regarding the technology, which characterized wrist-based devices as being “possible much sooner” than other BCI technology the company is developing.
“You’ll have voice assistance, but you’re not always gonna want to use voice because there are privacy issues with that. Hands are going to be a thing. But you’re not always gonna be walking around with your hands outstretched in front of you doing stuff… I think controllers are going to be one interesting dimension of this, too. For things like writing, you want a stylus, it’s super helpful. But in some ways, the holy grail of all this is a neural interface,” said CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg in a livestream chat last week.
So, just like the first-generation Spectacles, Facebook’s smartwatch may not have an AR role at launch. But it lays the foundation for the wearable ecosystem Facebook envisions when it goes unveil its own smartglasses.