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Seeing the Future: Facebook's New Product Could be a Response to Social Distancing

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Nicolas Rontanini

Facebook recently announced the developmental advances of their newest technological feat: production on something called “smart glasses.” They are being designed to replace smartphones. Users can take calls, show information to users via a smaller display, and record their vantage point to any social media friends and followers, according to CNBC.

To produce the glasses, Facebook has partnered with the company Plessey to imbed microLED technology into the glasses, since these screens are emissive and don’t need backlighting. This makes for a smaller overall package and a lower power requirement. Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg has talked about the company’s focus on the glasses, but limitations with power, screen displays, and connectivity have made a practical prototype difficult to produce.

Given that the glasses will be remarkably similar to smartphone usage, what exactly is the point in making them? Well, it could be related to similar glasses that Google revoked a few years ago. The problem those glasses faced was that people claimed an invasion of privacy, as they could record others without their consent. Maybe Facebook could be trying to fix the privacy issues users had with the Google glass.

If that is the case, it might be important to note that Facebook has had some issues with privacy in the past, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. Is Facebook inherently an untrustworthy company? No, but their privacy scandals should be noted, given that the Google glass experienced a similar criticism when it was released.

Whatever reasons Facebook might have for working on the glasses, one question stands out: Why continue production when most Americans right now are more concerned with their own safety? Perhaps they’re hoping to give a sense of business as usual, given the unprecedented and confusing nature of the current situation.

Still, Facebook is a business. Since most businesses are closed or slowing activity—and are consequently losing money—they may be trying to get some kind of advantage. From this point of view, it’s a smart business decision, because it offers an advantage that other companies might not have. Since they have something in the works, this may have allowed them to continue their production efforts during the crisis. This could also give them a lead ahead of their competitors, as they have a new project to work on.

On the other hand, maybe it’s more than just business behind why Facebook is continuing production on the glasses. The company might be working on the project because it offers what social-distancing people might want right now: connection.

Whatever reason Facebook has to develop the glasses, is now the best time to work on a project like this? Maybe not. But with the glasses offering some kind of social interaction, and the pandemic requiring people to stay at least six feet away from each other, people start to miss the social activity that was so prevalent before. Perhaps the time isn’t optimal, but with everything going on, it might just be what we need to carry on.

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