WTF is Facebook's Project Aria

No, it has nothing to do with singing

After the Google Glass fiasco you might think smart glasses had joined 3D TV, laser discs and Amazon’s Fire Phone in the big recycling bin in the sky – but Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea just yet.

As well as unveiling its latest Oculus VR headset, last night Facebook announced a new wearable AR venture called Project Aria. But what’s it all about and when might it turn up on your face?

What’s different about these smart specs, then?

They might look a lot like a pair of Bose Frames, but you won’t find Facebook’s connected glasses for sale anywhere. Project Aria is currently just a research initiative that Zuckerberg and co hope will help them to build the first generation of decent AR facewear.

So this is a prototype pair?

Nope, they’re not even at that stage yet. Facebook is dishing out these ‘research devices’ to a small group of employees across the pond. They don’t even include a display, just a camera and mic, plus sensors to capture location data and eye movement, so FB’s engineers can get a better idea of how people actually move through the world, which will help them to develop the AR aspect and make it genuinely useful.

That sounds like a good idea…

You know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, right? A lot of the tech hasn’t caught up with Facebook’s vision of video chats with lifelike avatars and real-time digital assistants just yet, but it makes a lot of sense to work on the foundations now. The team of testers will also allow FB to create virtual 3D maps, which it reckons are crucial for location-based AR features.

Wake me up when I can actually buy some, yeah?

The augmented-reality specs might still be some way off, but Facebook does have a pair of smart-ish glasses in the pipeline that you’ll be able to buy next year. They won’t come with a display either, or have any AR skills, so they’re more likely to be an Insta-friendly version of Snapchat’s Spectacles. While the design is yet to be unveiled, FB has enlisted Ray-Ban’s help to make them, so chances are they won’t make you look like a robo-dweeb.