Meta is working on a powerful smart glasses assistant
Welcome to Lowpass, a newsletter about the future of entertainment and the next big hardware platforms, including smart TVs, ambient computing and AR / VR. This week: Meta banks on a much better assistant for future smart glasses, and streaming is huuuuge.
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Meta is looking to bring advanced assistant features to its smart glasses
Meta has been working on advanced assistant features that could one day make devices like the company’s Ray-Ban Stories wearables and future smart glasses a lot more powerful companions. Some of those efforts came to light in a recent job listing as well as a recently-awarded patent, but the company has also been testing a proactive assistant with location-based reminders with some of its staffers.
Meta is in a multi-year partnership with Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica, and Mark Zuckerberg was joined by EssilorLuxottica’s chief wearables officer Rocco Basilico during October’s Meta Connect event to tease future devices. A recent job listing for a smart glasses product manager offers some clues about the features Meta may be looking to bring to these devices.
One big area of focus is Meta’s voice assistant. In its new job listing, Meta says that its smart glasses product managers will “serve as the user advocate for experiences using speech recognition.”
Potential job applicants are also being told that “experience launching products with AI/ML such as personalization, ranking, search, content understanding (visual, speech, text), or assistants is preferred.”
Applicants should have “experience working with speech recognition or other ML technologies,” according to the job listing.
Meta was also recently awarded a patent for assistant reminders that shows how the company may bring assistant features to smart glasses. Instead of just answering simple queries, the assistant is supposed to take action proactively based on context.
“The assistant system may use different types of multimodal signals to determine when to deliver proactive reminders,” according to the patent filing. “The multimodal signals may include date, time, location, visual signal, sound signal (...) or user context (e.g. action/activity or state).”
One example included in the patent application shows a user telling the assistant to remind them of something the next time they see a relative. When the smart glasses identify the relative, the reminder is delivered.
Another example shown in the application (and atop this article, if you’re reading it on the web) is a reminder to buy milk. The assistant then figures out that the best time to deliver this reminder is when the user goes to the store.
From the filing: “The assistant system may determine that the user is at a supermarket/grocery store based on … the user’s location information captured by GPS signals or visual signals captured by the smart AR/VR glasses” and then remind them to buy milk.
Meta has already been testing similar features with its Ray-Ban Stories glasses. Ray-Ban Stories currently only offer very basic assistant functionality, which include summoning the Facebook Assistant to take photos, make calls and have it read messages. However, some Meta employees have access to an internal version of the assistant that offers more powerful features, according to documents I have been able to review.
These include proactive reminders based on a user’s location, including their home address.
One scenario that Meta has tested is a weather reminder that alerts a Ray-Ban Stories wearer if there is a chance of rain when they leave their home.
Meta executives have repeatedly said that it will take years to develop full-fledged AR glasses. Ray-Ban Stories and similar smart glasses are a step in that direction, and a proactive assistant that makes use of GPS coordinates and other sensor data to deliver contextually relevant reminders could make these devices a lot more powerful.
Ad-supported streaming in 2022
This whole streaming thing really seems to be catching on! No, but seriously: Ad-supported streaming services in particular seem to be growing by leaps and bounds. Here are some numbers shared just in recent days:
Tubi alone streamed more than 5 billion hours of ad-supported video to TV viewers in 2022, and now reaches 64 million monthly active users. Overall video viewing on the platform grew 44% year-over-year, and the viewership of its FAST channels was up 61% year-over-year.
Speaking of FAST: These free, ad-supported streaming channels grossed over $2 billion in domestic ad revenue last year, according to Tubi’s new audience insights report. By 2025, the segment is expected to reach $6.1 billion.
Roku streamed a total of 87.4 billion hours on its platform, and ended the year with 70 million active accounts. Roku estimates that its Roku Channel now reaches 100 million people.
Samba meanwhile estimates that fewer than half of all U.S. households now have a pay TV subscription.
Here’s how Roku CEO Anthony Wood put it on the company’s earnings call yesterday: “Streaming is actually super popular right now.”
Light Field Lab has raised another $50 million. The volumetric display startup wants to use the cash infusion to start manufacturing display panels.
Comcast customers will have to pay up for Peacock. The company won’t offer free access to Peacock as a perk to its cable and internet subscribers anymore.
The future of porn is in your living room. A story I wrote for Fast Company about the adult entertainment industry’s embrace of AR, and mixed reality headsets like Meta’s Quest Pro.
Fox reportedly turned down massive offers for Tubi. Would-be buyers offered more than $2 billion for Tubi, which Fox acquired for $440 million in 2020.
Netflix is losing Arrested Development. Truly the end of an era.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is stepping down. Okay, that also counts as the end of an era.
Apple is said to debut its mixed reality headset at WWDC. Not a huge surprise, as a device with a reported $3000 price tag is primarily going to appeal to developers and prosumers.
The Paramount+ subscription price is going up. Subscribers will have to pay $2 more for the streaming service’s premium tier; there are now close to 56 million Paramount+ subscribers.
PSVR2 reviews are in. Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 headset is gaining praise for its visual quality, but critics don’t like the cable, or the price tag.
Speaking of streaming, here’s a video I enjoyed this week: Get to Know John Oliver in Six Jokes. Have a great weekend, everyone!