UPDATED 13:37 EST / JUNE 10 2022


Meta reportedly scales back plans for its upcoming AR glasses

Meta Platforms Inc. will not make its upcoming augmented reality glasses available to consumers as originally planned, according to two reports published on Thursday.

Meta originally intended to make its AR glasses available to developers and early technology adopters. On Thursday, The Verge and The Information reported that the company now plans to distribute the device only to developers. Meta envisions software teams using the device, which is code-named Orion internally, to build applications for more advanced AR glasses that it will launch in the future. 

Meta’s decision to revise its hardware roadmap is said to have been motivated by multiple factors. One reason for the move is that Orion’s display brightness and certain other hardware specifications are “not consumer-ready,” according to The Verge. Another factor was cost: Orion is said to cost thousands of dollars to assemble.

In a related development, Meta reportedly has scrapped an upcoming smartwatch designed to work with its AR glasses. The company reportedly planned to equip the smartwatch with a feature that would allow users to control their AR glasses using hand gestures.

Despite the changes to Meta’s product roadmap, AR hardware continues to be a major focus of its long-term strategy. The company is believed to have scrapped the smartwatch because it featured a detachable display, which made it difficult to implement the feature for controlling AR glasses with hand gestures. Meta is now said to be working on a newer smartwatch design that makes it easier to implement the feature.

In conjunction, Meta is developing a successor to its Orion AR glasses. The next-generation device is expected to feature a more advanced display and a streamlined chassis. Meta reportedly won’t distribute the device only to developers as it plans to do with Orion, but will rather make it available to consumers.

Meta’s AR hardware roadmap is believed to include a third upcoming device. The device, which is described as an entry-level version of its AR glasses, could ship next year. It’s designed to connect to the user’s smartphone and can perform tasks such as displaying notifications.

Meta’s AR hardware development efforts are part of a broader plan by the company to grow revenues by building a metaverse business. The metaverse is a future version of the internet envisioned to include more augmented and virtual reality elements. As part of its strategy, Meta has invested billions of dollars in its Reality Labs division, the business unit that leads the company’s metaverse efforts.

Meta executives reportedly hope to ship tens of millions of AR glasses by the end of the decade. Along the way, the company could potentially start facing competition from Apple Inc., which has long been reported to be developing its own AR glasses. The iPhone maker’s device is believed to be powered by internally developed chips. 

Apple’s chip design expertise could prove valuable for its reported AR hardware initiative. Many of the company’s products run on internally-developed chips, such as its recently debuted M2 processor, that provide competitive power efficiency and performance. Power efficiency is a particularly important feature for AR headsets because such devices usually rely on built-in batteries with relatively limited capacity. 

Meta is reportedly also working to develop custom chips for its AR headsets. Like Apple, Meta invests in custom chip development, but the company’s efforts in the past focused mainly on designing processors for its data centers. Meanwhile, Google LLC is likewise reported to be developing an AR headset powered by internally designed silicon. 

Image: Meta

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