- Facebook revealed several products and services for augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences at its Facebook Connect conference Wednesday. The social network formed a multiyear partnership with eyewear maker EssilorLuxottica to release smart glasses with the Ray-Ban brand next year, according to a keynote announcement by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
- The smart glasses will connect wirelessly to a nearby phone and project an image of a mobile screen on the lenses. Facebook and EssilorLuxottica will provide more details about the Ray-Ban wearables, including the name, price, specifications, software and other details next year, Variety reported. Facebook also said independent creators of AR content will be able to share their work in its Messenger chat app and Portal smart displays.
- Along with moves that could make AR more commonplace, Facebook introduced a lower-cost model of its VR headset that will start shipping on Oct. 13. The gaming-centric Oculus Quest 2 has improved specifications and a starting price of $299, or $100 less than the prior model. As part of the product reveal, Facebook highlighted how its Oculus for Business platform supports enterprise applications like remote work.
Coming at Facebook Connect — which is entirely online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic — Facebook's announcement of a partnership with EssilorLuxottica to develop AR glasses may be meaningful to mobile marketers in several ways. As wearers use apps like Facebook's social network, they're more likely to see advertising and be immersed in branded AR experiences.
While it's too early to tell what those experiences will look like, the popularization of AR content on smartphones indicates how the technology can be applied for marketing on these high-tech glasses. In recent years, brands and retailers have created AR content that showcases products including apparel, sunglasses, makeup, hair dye, bouquets, home furnishings, luggage, movies and vehicles, and lets people order from virtual stores.
Facebook's announcement confirms an earlier report that the social network was working with EssilorLuxottica on AR glasses. That report described the glasses as a replacement for smartphones, letting people make phone calls, see information and livestream their surroundings to social media. The latest announcement says the AR glasses will be connected to a smartphone, which helps to offload processing power and cellular connectivity onto another device. Until the technology improves, nascent AR eyeglasses are likely to rely on smartphone connectivity instead of being completely independent.
The tech giant's product announcements about AR/VR devices come as hardware makers rebound from supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The market for VR headsets will decline 6.7% in 2020 before rebounding to 46% growth next year, researcher International Data Corp. (IDC) forecast this week. The company estimates the VR headset market will grow about 48% a year until 2024 as consumers and businesses steadily adopt the tech.
Earlier this year, IDC had forecast that the shipments of standalone AR headsets would swell from about 40,000 this year to 24 million by 2024, while tethered AR headsets that connect to another device would increase from 25,000 to 17 million during that period. The growth bodes well for Facebook's continued investment in AR/VR technology.