The big picture: Augmented reality is proving to be one of the more interesting and practical industries to emerge over the past several years. Unlike full-dive virtual reality, which typically requires a bulky headset of some sort, augmented reality tech can typically be implemented in existing smartphones, tablets, and other devices. By simply looking around through your gadget's display, you can see a mixture of both real-world scenery and virtual objects.
Some companies have tried to capitalize on this idea with AR eyewear, but the more ambitious projects haven't been very successful. Google's "Glass" eyewear is a good example of this -- though Glass has found a home in the enterprise sector, it failed to gain any ground in the consumer market.
However, it seems Facebook thinks it can do better, if sources who spoke to CNBC are to be trusted. The outlet reports that Facebook has teamed up with Luxottica to develop "augmented-reality Ray-Ban glasses," which have been codenamed "Orion."
This project is very ambitious. According to the sources in question, Orion eyewear will be designed to "replace smartphones." Apparently, the devices will let users "take calls, show information to users in a small display," and live-stream their point of view to others. Further, Orion glasses will house their own Alexa-like virtual assistant. CNBC also says Facebook and co. are considering a touch-sensitive connected ring that could feed input to the glasses.
Like we said, this is an ambitious project, and it may never come to fruition. For these devices to fully replace smartphones, they would need to do everything smartphones do right now, but better or in a more efficient manner; and that just doesn't seem like a realistic proposition for the time being. However, that won't stop Facebook from giving it a try, it would seem.
Who knows -- perhaps by setting their sights high, the company (and Luxottica) will develop a product that may fall a bit short of its lofty goals, but still remains a compelling offering. Only time will tell.
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