The big U.S.-based social network has turned to EssilorLuxottica to help it develop smart glasses, according to the U.S. broadcaster CNBC, which cited people familiar with the matter. According to CNCB, Facebook has been seeking to develop augmented-reality glasses for the past couple of years. Internally codenamed Orion, the glasses are intended to replace smartphones. They would allow users to take calls, share information and live-stream to friends and followers. Facebook is hoping to have the glasses ready sometime between 2023 and 2025.
But the American company is struggling to reduce the size of the device into an appealing format, a person who worked on the project told CNBC. In any case, Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is said to have an intense interest in the glasses, and has asked the company's hardware chief, Andrew Bosworth, to prioritize the project.
In 2014, Luxottica entered a smart glass development agreement with Google, as we reported at the time, but it yielded little results. In the same year it also entered a research and development collaboration program with Intel, the manufacturer of microprocessors that is also based in California.
Luxottica's ambitions in the sector may be given a boost by its combination with Essilor, forming the world's largest eyewear company that plans to invest more heavily in the digital front. The new group, EssilorLuxottica (Essilux), declined to comment on the partnership a few days ago.
An industry insider recalled that Luxottica had set up a small office in California's Silicon Valley to monitor trends and innovation, especially in the area of smart eyewear. Even though the structure was dismantled and its functions repatriated to Luxottica's head offices, the group continues to have contracts with the American high-tech “ecosystem” and keeps an “open channel” with Google and Intel, said the insider, adding that a possible partnership between Essilux and Facebook is an “easy guess” following a visit made by Zuckerberg to Luxottica's main Italian manufacturing site in Agordo in May. He also met Essilux's executive chairman and founder of Luxottica, Leonardo Del Vecchio. The insider noted that the two men wanted to know each other better and nourish a “great esteem” for each other.
In the meantime, Facebook has announced the acquisition of CTRL-labs, a startup working on ways to command computers and other devices with the mind. CTRL-labs will become part of Facebook Reality Labs to develop the technology and apply it to a variety of consumer goods.