Tech companies are accelerating their development of computerized glasses for consumers, in a competition between Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and others that proponents say will usher in a new way for consumers to use technology.
The devices feature augmented reality, which overlays digital content onto a person’s view 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 enable people to see how a coffee table might look in their living room. Now companies are pushing to put the same technology directly in front of consumers’ eyes, an effort that could open up a category of computing in the years to come if they can overcome technical, ethical and financial hurdles.
Facebook last month said it is working on AR glasses in tandem with sensor-packed wristbands that can detect finger movements, part of a broader push in researching the development of software and hardware to support the eyewear. As an interim step, the social-media giant this year is releasing eyewear with some tech capabilities in partnership with EssilorLuxottica SA’s Ray-Ban brand.
Niantic Chief Executive John Hanke last week posted a tweet touting progress on its planned AR glasses, which it is making in partnership with chip maker Qualcomm Inc.
Other companies are guarding their plans. Apple is working on an AR headset for consumers, which analysts expect to hit the market as soon as next year, and has plans for AR glasses to follow. Analysts also say Snap Inc., which already sells camera-equipped sunglasses it calls Spectacles, is developing consumer AR glasses, and that Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which entered the space in 2013 with Google Glass before focusing on sales to business customers, is likely to try a consumer play again.