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Facebook AR Glasses Research Is Approaching Reality

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Aug. 5 2019, Published 11:48 p.m. ET

Facebook AR glasses could be available in 10 years

Facebook (FB) is working on an augmented reality solution that could enable people to type hands-free. Featuring augmented reality, these Facebook AR glasses are part of the brain-computer interface (or BCI), related to research aimed at harnessing cortical activity. According to the social media giant, the research should enhance communication for people with speech difficulties.

The first strong hint toward this kind of research became apparent during the F8 event in 2017. During the event, the company unveiled a 10-year roadmap of its activities. The roadmap was composed of three components: Ecosystems (Facebook and Instagram), Products, and Technology. Under the Technology component, the company said it would pursue BCI, among other things.

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Human brain activity research

Toward that end, Facebook began funding research into human brain activity by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco. In a comprehensive statement, Facebook said the researchers are making huge strides toward decoding brain activity.

According to the statement, it is possible to transcribe the decoded brain activity into text. The company is aspiring toward the goal of creating a system that can type 100 words per minute. Facebook’s AR glasses should accomplish this task by simply reading the brain.

AR projects

Facebook’s augmented reality smart glasses are among the products that show the company is hard at work at its AR project. On August 17, 2017, the company applied for a patent for smart glasses capable of projecting virtual objects in reality. The smart glasses use the same technology as in Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset.

According to the information in the patent application, the smart glasses use a projector to display AR experiences. Despite the advancement, Facebook researchers caution that fully functional AR glasses may not become available for another 10 years.

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How big is the AR industry?

The AR and VR industry is enormous, and a lot of money is going into research for improved solutions. For instance, the research into Facebook AR glasses is ongoing and could materialize in five years. However, the development of solutions in this sector takes quite some time due to the complexity of the core concepts. Nonetheless, the market is growing.

By the end of 2018, the global augmented reality market was worth $0.35 billion, according to Mordor Intelligence. The technology research company estimated that the market would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 151.93% between 2019 and 2024.

Statista estimated in an August 2018 report that the market would close that year at $5.91 billion. According to the same logic, Statista expects the AR market to be worth $198.17 billion in 2025.

The AR market comprises software and hardware segments. According to Markets and Markets research, the industry’s hardware segment should grow the fastest, as most of the ongoing research and existing products have focused on hardware. Notably, head-mounted displays like the Facebook AR glasses should continue to dominate.

Facebook’s AR competitors

Although Alphabet Inc. unveiled Google Glass, it wasn’t able to maximize its potential. Vuzix Corp. has already started selling its Blade AR glasses, leading to heated competition in the AR hardware niche.

Toshiba also features thought-controlled AR wearables in its product portfolio. The PC maker unveiled dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses for enterprise customers.

Even before the Facebook AR glasses materialize, competition is firming up. However, a Facebook wearable could have a massive impact on the AR market. The prospect of typing with your mind is one that many people seem to relish.

In the meantime, Facebook is committing more money to research while hoping for the best outcome. However, competition is not the only hurdle that Facebook faces when considering the social media giant’s past experiences with respect to data privacy.

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