A manual uploaded to the FCC gives us a look at Facebook’s experimental Project Aria AR glasses, which apparently go by the code name Gemini (via Protocol). Facebook announced Project Aria in September 2020, with a big message about vision and light on details – although it was clear that the device exists to help Facebook in its quest (no pun) to create a computer that sees and understands the world. Seeing the actual headset manual gives us a small idea of how to do it.
In some ways the Gemini headset is like a real pair of glasses, but in other ways it is very small: it can be equipped with corrective lenses if necessary, but you can not fold your arms down or use it in a VR headset. And of course it is loaded with things that ordinary glasses do not have, such as a proximity sensor, Qualcomm chip, and according to Protocol, the same camera sensors found in Oculus Quest 2.
The glasses are charged using a Fitbit-esque magnetic connector, which can also transfer data. It is a companion app for uploading data that the glasses collect and checking the connection status and battery life.
While the handbook gives us an interesting insight into a project that Facebook has not shared much about, it is not an updated one. It appears that the version found on the FCC’s website is version 0.9 of the document, which is dated August 28, 2020 – it is likely that Facebook has made some changes in the last year or so.
Facebook says on the Project Aria website that the glasses are not a commercial product. They do not act as a prototype for something that the public will eventually buy. This is repeated by the manual’s many statements that the headset is a construction product and is only for use by people who work for Facebook. The company has said that the headset is worn by researchers on campuses and in public – even though it says that all data collected is anonymous, and the headset has a “privacy mode.”
Although Aria may not be on its way to storing shelves, Facebook has a completely different set of “smart glasses” that it plans to release in collaboration with Ray-Ban. Like Aria, Facebook says they will not actually amplify your reality with a screen, so at this point it is unclear what will make them smart.