Tech companies are accelerating the development of computerized glasses for consumers, in a competition between Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and others that advocates say will usher in a new way for consumers to use technology.
The devices feature augmented reality, which overlays digital content on a person’s vision of the real world. Augmented reality has been available for years in smartphone apps, such as Niantic Inc.’s hit game “Pokémon Go,” and shopping tools that allow people to see what a coffee table would look like in their living room. Now companies are pushing to put the same technology directly in the eyes of consumers, an effort that could open up a computing category for years to come if they can overcome technical, ethical and financial hurdles.
Last month, Facebook said it is working on augmented reality glasses alongside wristbands with sensors that can detect finger movements, as part of a broader push in research into the development of software and hardware to support the glasses. As an intermediate step, this year the social media giant will launch glasses with some technological capabilities in association with the Ray-Ban brand of EssilorLuxottica SA.
Niantic CEO John Hanke last week posted a tweet promoting the progress in its planned AR glasses, which it is manufacturing in association with chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.
Other companies monitor your plans. Apple is working on an AR headset for consumers, which analysts expect to hit the market next year, and has plans for AR lenses to follow. Analysts also say that Snap Inc., which already sells camera-equipped sunglasses it calls Spectacles, is developing AR glasses for consumers, and that Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which entered the space in 2013 with Google Glass before focus on sales to commercial customers, you will likely try a consumer work again.