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Oculus owner Facebook is working on the development of augmented reality glasses that combine a real-world background with superimposed data and imagery. Our spies (or rather researchers) in the US Patent Office, report that Facebook has filed a patent for glasses with a two-dimensional overlay display.
Unlike the Oculus Rift, which is a completely immersive virtual reality headset, this new offering is more of a set of smart-glasses that add imagery or data without completely cutting off the wearer or immersing them in a virtual world. This means that the wearer can move about freely and safety and interact with both the real world and the virtual one that overlays it.
This would put Oculus parent Facebook in direct competition with Snapchat Spectacles and Microsoft’s Hololens, that currently sells in Development Edition form for a “mere” $3000 and in Commercial Suite form for a not so “mere” $5000.
Facebook plans to integrate the new AR glasses with existing games consoles and personal audio. But they also have more ambitious plans, closely related to their social networking comfort zone. They recently started Facebook Spaces, a kind of virtual version of their social network, using the Oculus Rift, animated avatars and virtual environments.
Facebook and Oculus see a bright future for AR smart glasses a few years down the line. But they face stiff competition from Microsoft, who hold a clear lead with the Hololens, and Apple, who are still trailing behind. Apple, however, are poised to join the fray in October or November of this year with the release of the iPhone 8 and its new iOS 11 operating system. The iOS 11 features extensive AR support.
And, of course, one cannot ignore one other major player in the AR field: Google. The original front-runner in the AR pack, with their 2013 Google Glass, Alphabet (Google’s 2015 post-restructuring parent), is now placing its hopes on a redeveloped Google Glass with an emphasis on business.
Apple’s recent entry appears to be more software oriented. They have yet to develop an AR or VR headset.