SAN JOSE, Calif.—At the sixth annual Oculus Connect conference, a lengthy video presentation confirmed the virtual reality company’s intention to build the device we’ve all assumed was in the works: “augmented reality glasses.”
The demo video revolved around the shared Oculus and Facebook vision of contextual data appearing in the real world while a user is wearing a pair of glasses.
The demo video featured pop-up reminders (movie times, calendar reminders), along with a virtual conversation with a real-life friend who appears as a realistic, 3D version (as opposed to a cartoon avatar).
Curiously, this demo video included zero visible glasses or hardware on anyone’s face. Oculus made clear that its plans for this hardware mission were still quite early, and no timeline was announced.
The presentation resembled the vision that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out during a 2017 presentation, which had previously revolved around looking at the nearby world through a smartphone’s camera lens. Today’s announcement acknowledged what we at Ars were thinking two years ago: “Today, interactions with our phones split our attention. You can’t look at your phone without looking away from what’s around.”
While AR hardware plans aren’t solidified just yet, Oculus representatives confirmed that the company, as part of Facebook Reality Labs, is already building a massive “Real World Index” system to collect photo scans of indoor and outdoor spaces and associated metadata. Oculus hinted at this system being used to natively render real-world visual data as virtual 3D content, perhaps within either a VR headset or a pair of augmented reality glasses so that headsets won’t have to devote energy and resources to scanning and translating all nearby environs.
Still, a very -like “scanning” sequence made clear that any Oculus AR glasses will likely read and translate whatever is around the wearer. The privacy concerns associated with such a live data-collection project will certainly raise eyebrows among digital privacy-minded folks.
This presentation followed a peek at a VR demo experience where two distant friends can sit in the same “real-life” room and do things like watch TV and have a conversation. But this conversational experience requires one VR headset per person, and Oculus admitted that this would make for a very awkward social experience if an additional non-VR person was hanging out with either VR participant.