A manual uploaded to the FCC gives us a look at Facebook’s experimental Project Aria AR glasses, which apparently go by the codename Gemini (via Protocol). Facebook announced Project Aria in September 2020, with a message big on vision and light on details — though it was clear that the device exists to help Facebook in its quest (no pun intended) to create a computer that sees and understands the world. Seeing the actual headset’s manual gives us a bit of an idea about how it does that.
In some ways, the Gemini headset is like a real pair of glasses, though in other ways it’s very much not: it can be fitted with corrective lenses if need be, but you can’t fold the arms down or use it in a VR headset. And, of course, it’s loaded with things that normal glasses don’t have, like a proximity sensor, Qualcomm chip, and, according to Protocol, the same camera sensors found in the Oculus Quest 2.
The glasses are charged using a Fitbit-esque magnetic connector, which can also transfer data. There’s a companion app for uploading data that the glasses collect and checking on the connection status and battery life.
While the manual gives us an interesting look into a project that Facebook hasn’t shared a ton about, it’s not an up-to-date one. It seems the version found on the FCC’s site is version 0.9 of the document, which is dated August 28th, 2020 — it’s likely that Facebook has made some changes in the past year or so.
Facebook says on its Project Aria site that the glasses aren’t a commercial product. They’re not acting as a prototype for something that the general public will eventually buy. That’s reiterated by the manual’s many statements that the headset is an engineering product and is only for use by people working for Facebook. The company has said that the headset is worn by researchers on its campuses and in public — though it says that any data collected is anonymized, and the headset has a “privacy mode.”
While Aria may not be headed to store shelves, Facebook does have an entirely different set of “smart glasses” that it plans on releasing in collaboration with Ray-Ban. Like the Aria, Facebook says that they won’t actually augment your reality with a screen, so at this point, it’s unclear what will make them smart.