New patent reveals more about Facebook's AR glasses

We know Facebook has some augmented reality specs in the pipeline – its own version of Microsoft HoloLens, without the bulk – but details have been thin on the ground up until now. However, a newly unearthed patent has revealed a bit more about Mark Zuckerberg's super-smart AR specs.

Based on the documents spotted by Business Insider, the glasses are going to use a 'waveguide display' to combine computer graphics with the real world – essentially it's an advanced method of giving the illusion of depth on specs right in front of your face (similar to the tech Magic Leap is trialling).

Waveguides can get very technical, but they promise to be able to fit proper AR displays, that realistically embed graphics in a scene, inside specs that won't weigh your head down as you peer around. According to the patent, the glasses will be able to display images and videos, as well as hook up to connected speakers or headphones.

Specs appeal

The patent was filed by three members of the advanced research division at Oculus, which is of course owned by Facebook. One of the patent authors, optical scientist Pasi Saarikko, was involved in the design of the HoloLens before moving to Facebook in 2015.

If you like the sound of some Facebook-powered AR glasses, you've still got plenty of time to save up - Oculus engineers have said this type of tech won't start to go mainstream until 2022. Based on the patent images, the new device is going to look like a regular pair of glasses, so it's going to need a lot of complex, miniaturised technology to work.

In the meantime, you can always play around with AR using your phone: the upcoming iOS 11 includes code for developers to create augmented reality apps that work through your phone's camera. Think Pokémon Go, but with creatures and graphics that look like they actually belong in a scene.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.