Meta Inc. is reported to be planning to launch new augmented reality smart glasses in 2024 that will operate independently of smartphones.
The Verge reported today that Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg believes that the AR glasses will be a “holy grail device” that will “redefine our relationship with technology. Referencing a former Meta employee, the report said Zuckerberg wants the glasses to be “an iPhone moment.”
That Meta, previously Facebook, is working on AR glasses is not new. The company’s vision for human-computer interactions was shared in March 2021 and AR glasses were front and center of that vision.
“Imagine a world where a lightweight, stylish pair of glasses could replace your need for a computer or smartphone,” the then-named Facebook Reality Labs said. “You’d have the ability to feel physically present with friends and family — no matter where in the world they happened to be — and contextually aware AI to help you navigate the world around you, as well as rich 3D virtual information within arm’s reach.”
What hasn’t been previously known is just how obsessed Zuckerberg is with Project Nazare, the code name for the AR glasses development program. “Zuck’s ego is intertwined with the glasses,” the former employee who spoke with The Verge said.
The report also provides some further information as to where the project is and what it might end up looking like. The first version of Nazare will work independently of a phone but will only do so with the assistance of a wireless, phone-shaped device that offloads part of the computing required for the glasses to operate. The first version will include the ability to communicate with holograms of other people through the glasses, a feature believed to provide a more immersive, compelling experience.
A second, cheaper AR-enabled set of smart glasses codenamed Hypernova is also planned for 2024. The Verge said Hypernova will pair with a nearby phone to show incoming messages and other notifications through a smaller, heads-up display.
Despite initial reports that Meta had ceased developing a custom operating system for the headsets in January, Meta is on the record as saying that it continues to develop it.
Meta currently dominates the augmented and virtual reality headset business, with the Quest 2 holding a 78% market share as of the end of 2021. But it’s still not a huge market. Worldwide shipments in the year totaled only 11.2 million units.
The technology, while growing, is still nowhere close to becoming mainstream. Zuckerberg will be hoping for an iPhone moment to change that.