Facebook is building augmented reality headsets with the intent of eventually bringing one to market, this much is clear from its many job postings, research projects, and forward-looking statements from company execs. Now, a CNBC report contends that Facebook has struck a deal with Luxottica, the Italian parent company to Ray-Ban and many others, to help design some form of immersive wearable.
Citing ‘people familiar with the matter’, CNBC’s report maintain the glasses are internally codenamed Orion, and are intended to replace smartphones by letting users “take calls, show information […] in a small display and live-stream their vantage point to their social media friends and followers.”
From this description, it’s unclear whether the device will function more like a proper AR headset (HoloLens, Magic Leap), which is designed to position digital imagery into physical 3D environments, or a pair of smartglasses (Google Glass, Vuzix Blade), which simply overlays useful information without integrating it into the environment as such. The report mixes both terminologies, so it’s unclear exactly which end of the spectrum the proposed device should fall on.
The report, which hasn’t received comment from either Facebook or Luxottica, maintains that the device should launch to consumers sometime between 2023 – 2025.
The partnership is the direct result of Facebook’s struggles to reduce the device’s size into an appealing form factor, the report claims.
Notably, Luxottica partnered with Google in 2014 to design and distribute additional frames for Google Glass in effort to make the smartglasses a high fashion item.
Luxottica produces both optical frames and sunglasses under license for a slew of brands, including Armani, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, and Versace. In-house brands include Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, and Persol.
The multi-billion dollar Italian company also operates Sunglass Hut, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, and Target Optical to name a few, making it the world’s largest company in the eyewear industry.
While Luxottica has been criticized for monopolistic practices, it’s clear the brand understands both luxury marketing and design, something Facebook’s first-generation AR (or smartglasses) will definitely need as it makes a critical bid to appeal to consumers.