When Facebook launched 17 years ago exclusively to university students, it could probably have struck a claim at being a cool brand. But now that all the site’s early adopters are in their late 30s and early 40s*, that ship has truly sailed, which is why so few young people actually use it and other social networks are jockeying to take its place.
Which makes Facebook’s next hardware release feel a little bit tragic, before I’ve even set eyes on it. The company is making a pair of smart glasses in collaboration with Ray-Ban and EssilorLuxottica, as confirmed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg during Facebook’s second-quarter
victory lap earnings call.
“Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica,” he said.
But as he hadn’t mistaken the investors on the call for a captive audience at the company’s F8 conference, he didn’t dwell on the product, merely saying that it will do “some pretty neat things” and sport an “iconic form factor.” Words that could equally describe everything from an iPhone to the yo-yo.
“I’m excited to get those into people’s hands and to continue to make progress on the journey toward full augmented reality glasses in the future,” he added, before moving on more financial chat.
That makes it sound like we’re looking at the next Google Glass – smart glasses that, amongst other things, spawned the term “glasshole” for the kind of person that would actually wear such a thing in public. But, wisely, that’s apparently not the case with the company telling The Verge last year that “the device will not be classified as an AR device and it will not have an integrated display of any kind.” So perhaps it will be closer to SnapChat’s Spectacles, or Bose Frames?
Facebook’s history with hardware is pretty patchy. I’m old enough (see the footnote) to remember the HTC ChaCha with its dedicated Facebook button which was sufficiently popular to prove a one-time experiment. More recently Facebook employees were caught leaving positive reviews for the company’s Portal smart screen on Amazon in the absence of organic praise.
The Oculus virtual reality headsets have been an unqualified success but, sleek as the Quest 2 undoubtedly is, you still look pretty stupid wearing one. Ultimately, Facebook smart glasses’ success will likely rest on how many of Mark Zuckerberg’s fingerprints are over them. Figuratively speaking, of course.
* I was actually born just a few days later than Mark Zuckerberg, which is something that never fails to depress me when I fail to find my entry on the Forbes Rich List.