Meta unveils Facebook-streaming Ray-Bans, AI assistant

Meta Platforms Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday rolled out a new generation of Ray-Ban smart glasses that can stream directly on Facebook, as well as new AI products for consumers and an updated virtual-reality headset, all elements of the company's efforts to build out an immersive metaverse.

Zuckerberg said a new generation of Meta's Ray-Ban smart glasses would start shipping on October 17th, priced at $299. The device will incorporate a new Meta AI assistant and be capable of live-streaming broadcasts of what a user is seeing directly to Facebook and Instagram, an advancement over the previous generation's ability to snap photos. Earlier in the presentation, Zuckerberg said the latest Quest mixed-reality headset would start shipping on October 10th.

Zuckerberg also introduced the company's first consumer-facing generative AI products, including the Meta AI chatbot that can generate both text responses and photo-realistic images.

"This isn't just going to be about answering queries," Zuckerberg said. "This is about entertainment and about helping you do things to connect with the people around you."

Zuckerberg spoke at the Meta Connect conference, the social media company's biggest event of the year as well as its first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic.

Meta AI will also be built into the glasses as an assistant, starting with a beta rollout in the United States. A software update planned for next year will give the assistant the ability to identify places and objects that people are seeing, as well as to perform language translation.

As he rolled out AI products, Zuckerberg showed off pictures the image generator made portraying a dinosaur as a house pet and changing the style of his dog Beast's fur.

"A big part of this innovation is about making sure that these technologies are accessible to everyone," Zuckerberg said, adding that making innovative new products that are affordable for everyone is "really important."

Meta made the assistant, named Meta AI, using a custom model based on the powerful Llama 2 large language model that the company released for public commercial use in July. The chatbot will have access to real-time information via a partnership with Microsoft's Bing search engine, Zuckerberg said.

Ray Bans Facebook
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech at the Meta Connect event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., September 27, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The company is also building a platform that developers and ordinary people alike may use to create custom AI bots of their own, which will have profiles on Instagram and Facebook and eventually appear as avatars in the metaverse, he said.

To demonstrate the tool's capabilities, Meta created a set of 28 chatbots with different personalities, styled in the voices of celebrities like Charli D'Amelio, Snoop Dogg, and Tom Brady, according to a company blog post.

Women's soccer star Sam Kerr, for example, served as the inspiration for Sally, a bot described by Meta as a "free-spirited friend who'll tell you when to take a deep breath."

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that Xbox cloud gaming is coming to Quest in December.

Meta first announced the Quest 3 headset over the summer, around the time Apple debuted its Vision Pro headset, a high-end product with a price of $3,500.

Starting at $500, the Quest 3 boasts the same mixed-reality technology that premiered in Meta's more expensive Quest Pro device launched last year, which shows wearers a video feed of the real world around them.

The day's announcements reflect how Zuckerberg plans to navigate the shift this year of investor fervor to artificial intelligence from augmented and virtual reality technologies.

Stakes for the event are high as investors last year slammed the parent company of Facebook and Instagram for spending extensively on the metaverse, prompting Zuckerberg to lay off tens of thousands of staff to continue funding his vision.

Developers were watching to assess what apps they might create for Meta's latest hardware devices. Investors, meanwhile, looked for signs of whether a gamble that has lost the company more than $40 billion since 2021 may pay off.

Meta shares were down 3.8% on Wednesday afternoon.