Meta’s “camerabuds” could put AI and cameras in your ears

Meta reportedly wants to make smart glasses for your ears

Ray Ban Meta Smart Glasses
(Image credit: Meta)

Earlier this year we reported that Apple was considering placing tiny cameras inside AirPods in order to help them understand the world around you. It looks like Apple isn't the only firm considering such a combination: Meta's experimenting with all-seeing earbuds too.

That's according to a new report in tech publication The Information, via Engadget, which says that Meta is considering a new hardware project to help accelerate its AI ambitions. 

The company is apparently in the early stages of what it calls "camerabuds", which would be headphones or earbuds that include outward-facing cameras in order to detect where you are and inform AI-based features. Think Meta smart glasses (pictured) but stuck in your ears rather than in front of your eyes.

How likely are camerabuds to become a real product?

We don't know: the project is apparently so early in development that Meta hasn't yet decided whether it'll be based on headphones or earbuds, each of which is of course a very different form factor. Engadget tried to get Meta to comment but was met with silence. 

According to the report, while Mark Zuckerberg has been shown several different possible designs he hasn't been satisfied with any of them so far. Meta's engineers are reportedly also wrestling with significant engineering issues, most notably around battery life and heat, and more widely there are the privacy issues that come with having cameras inside wearable tech. 

And there's also a pretty fundamental issue that affects the seeing potential of earbuds in particular: people who wear their hair long without tying it back can block the earbuds from seeing anything at all.

These are all solvable to some degree, and Meta isn't the only firm thinking this way: we're seeing an industry shift away from traditional computing to something more conversational and hands-free, and AI is expected to play a big part in that. 

Meta very much wants to be one of the big hitters in that more conversational world, and the more situational and location awareness your wearables have the more useful they could potentially be. And it's much easier to get people to embrace a smarter version of a familiar product, such as earbuds or headphones, than to persuade people to add something new to their everyday accessories.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).