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Facebook says it will build AR glasses and map the world

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Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

Facebook has confirmed (yet again) that it’s building augmented reality glasses, and it announced a project called “Live Maps” that will create 3D maps of the world. At the Oculus Connect developer conference today, Facebook augmented and virtual reality head Andrew Bosworth said the company had “a few” prototypes of AR glasses, although he didn’t offer details about them.

Facebook also described Live Maps in aspirational terms. According to a video, it will produce “multi-layer representations of the world” using crowdsourced data, traditional maps, and footage captured through phones and augmented reality glasses. The video shows familiar potential uses — like getting notifications projected in thin air, identifying objects with labels, or even projecting a holographic avatar to hang out with real people. It’s not totally clear how (or if) Facebook would protect privacy while collecting all of this data. After all, Google’s Street View system, which also captured data about the physical world, raised troubling legal questions.

We’ve seen companies like Magic Leap, Microsoft, and Google offer similar ideas, and Facebook has promoted phone-based augmented reality with its Spark AR system. Facebook has also mentioned several times that it’s building AR glasses, and last week, rumors circulated that it’s partnering with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica on one of multiple codenamed prototypes. Oculus Connect is just getting started, so it’s possible we’ll hear more about Live Maps later at the conference.