Facebook is hard at work on the technical breakthroughs needed to ship futuristic smart glasses that can let you see virtual objects in the real world.
A patent application for a “waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner” was published on Thursday by three members from the advanced research division of Facebook’s virtual-reality subsidiary, Oculus.
The display “may augment views of a physical, real-world environment with computer-generated elements” and “may be included in an eye-wear comprising a frame and a display assembly that presents media to a user’s eyes,” according to the filing.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called virtual and augmented reality the next major computing platform capable of replacing smartphones and traditional PCs. Facebook purchased Oculus for $US2 billion in 2014 and plans to spend billions more on developing the technology.
The smart glasses being developed by Oculus will use a waveguide display to project light onto the wearer’s eyes instead of a more traditional display, according to Thursday’s patent. The smart glasses would be able to display images, video, and work with connected speakers or headphones to play audio when worn.
Facebook declined to comment on the patent.
By using waveguide technology, Facebook is taking a similar approach to Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset and the mysterious glasses being developed by the Google-backed startup Magic Leap.
One of the authors of the patent is, in fact, lead Oculus optical scientist Pasi Saarikko, who joined Facebook in 2015 after leading the optical design of the HoloLens at Microsoft.
While work is clearly being done on the underlying technology for Facebook’s smart glasses now, don’t expect to see the device anytime soon. Michael Abrash, the chief scientist of Oculus, recently said that AR glasses won’t start replacing smartphones until as early as 2022.
“20 or 30 years from now, I predict that instead of carrying stylish smartphones everywhere, we’ll wear stylish glasses,” he said at Facebook’s developer conference earlier this year. “Those glasses will offer VR, AR and everything in between, and we’ll use them all day.”