what are the new connected glasses launched by Facebook for?

The Meta group presented new virtual reality glasses on Wednesday, in collaboration with Ray-Ban. But if they want to appeal to the general public, these niche devices must now integrate immersive games, according to Anicet Mbida, new technologies specialist at franceinfo.

For the first time, connected glasses will make it possible to broadcast live videos on Instagram or Facebook. The Meta group, owner of Facebook, presented the second generation of Ray-Ban Meta glasses during a presentation on Wednesday in California. This new technology is the result of a collaboration with the French giant EssilorLuxottica, number one of ophthalmic optics.

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In 2021, the first generation of glasses had not convinced the general public, with only around 300,000 pairs sold and, two years later, 90% of buyers no longer using them, according to the Wall Street Journal last August. This time, the video quality of the glasses is improved, with a new 12-megapixel camera, improved speakers and five microphones have been integrated. These glasses will be launched on October 17 starting at 329 euros.

franceinfo: Meta praises the development of artificial intelligence in these new virtual reality glasses. Is it sufficient ?

Anicet Mbida: The main problem with all these virtual reality headsets is usage. Concretely, what do we do with it? This is the problem that all manufacturers have and not just Meta: finding a real use for these virtual reality headsets.

“We can have the best virtual reality headset in the world, with all the qualities, but if we don’t know what to do with it…”

Anicet Mbida

new technologies specialist at franceinfo

Meta, a few years ago, tried to offer professional use of the headset, for example by holding virtual meetings, that is to say you had your avatar in a meeting room and you saw the other avatars . But we can’t say that it really makes people dream. We already have difficulty today with Zoom meetings through a screen, “meeting” via videoconference, and therefore doing it in virtual reality with a headset on the head, it makes you a little nauseous. Nobody bought into this idea.

What is missing to make these glasses more attractive?

We wait for games on our virtual reality headsets, because we say to ourselves that we could move to another dimension with completely immersive games, an unparalleled experience, we would be completely inside the game. Today, we are looking for maximum realism, but we are still waiting for very high quality games. Sony is trying to push this type of game with the PlayStation VR, but that should perhaps involve more time in the development of content, new games rather than new virtual reality headsets.

So these virtual reality glasses are “gadget” objects for the moment?

At the moment, all virtual reality headsets are niche items. Typically, in hospitals, we use them for anesthesia without drugs: we put on a virtual reality headset, the person is relaxed, relaxed, so we can perform an operation on them, at the dentist for example. It is also used for repairs in certain nuclear power plants, of certain somewhat complicated products. For example, for a car engine, you put on the “mixed” reality headset, that is to say that we will mix reality and computer-generated images, and that will allow someone to work on a engine, really seeing what’s going on through it.

“We are in niche markets. So, we are waiting for applications that will attract millions of users, general public applications. And there, I only see games and entertainment.”

Anicet Mbida, new technologies specialist at franceinfo

Who says niche product, says profitability problem?

Not necessarily. Meta is listed on the stock exchange and as it is a company that sells to the general public, it has every interest in going to markets with huge volumes. If we are in niche markets, “B to B” markets, or business to business, we have very small volumes and prices which are much higher. This is what Microsoft tried to do with its virtual reality headset called Hololens, which sold for 3,000 euros. If the niche market is very small, we won’t sell many. But in the case of Meta, their economic model is that of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook: reaching as many people as possible, the general public. They cannot be satisfied with a niche use, they absolutely need to develop a product that can interest millions of people, which is not the case today with virtual reality headsets. Because most people, you and I, we don’t really know what we would do with…

Are these new virtual glasses too expensive?

It’s not a question of price today. Some buy phones for 2,000 euros, bikes for 3,000 euros. When we have a use, when we really see the benefit and what it brings us, there is no problem.

“It’s 300 or 400 euros, so the price of a low-end phone. It’s not a question of price for me, it’s really a question of use.”

Anicet Mbida, new technologies specialist at franceinfo

So, do we need it or not? Until we answer this question, we will only sell these virtual reality glasses to certain very specific users who know exactly what they expect from this type of device.

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