Apr 15 2024
This VP is merging physical and digital worlds with AR tech
By Meta Careers
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Rafael C., VP, augmented reality (AR) systems, grew up in a rural town in Spain so small there wasn’t even a library. As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned his engineering degree in Madrid and launched a career that has taken him all over the world. His passion for consumer electronics was solidified by a special moment while living in China. “I climbed three miles to a Buddhist temple in Tibet, where I met a monk using one of the phones I’d helped build,” he shares. “Seeing the reach of our impact was an incredible honor.”

Building connections beyond boundaries

Bringing people closer together with technology has inspired Rafael’s career ever since. “Humans are all about connection, which is at the center of our mission at Meta — it’s why I joined seven years ago,” he says. After growing the consumer electronics team at Meta, Rafael moved to the Reality Labs team, where he now leads the development of AR devices such as smart glasses. “Our goal is to remove the friction of long-distance relationships. As someone who has lived far away from my family for years, I’m passionate about helping people feel ‘transported’ into the same room as their loved ones.”

Rafael believes this connection is more important than ever as people become more mobile in the modern world. “Video calls are great, but they can be tiring. There needs to be embodiment to feel emotionally connected,” he says. “When people are on their phones, they can miss the world around them. At the same time, the digital world is important to us. We’re aiming to deliver an immersive experience that merges the physical and digital worlds, helping them coexist.”

“We’re empowering people to augment their senses and break the digital divide. AR isn’t a replacement for being in person, but it’s the next closest thing.”

Innovating in smart glasses and the future of AR

Rafael and his team are especially excited about recently launching Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses. Their goal was to stay true to the original Ray-Ban Wayfarer design so the smart glasses looked and felt like stylish eyewear and not a piece of technology. “Weight was a major constraint. We had to keep the battery small and light — which meant optimizing power consumption down to every milliwatt to achieve a reasonable battery life,” Rafael explains. “Similarly, the camera sensor size and lens aperture are smaller than those in phones, so we optimized our photo and video processing pipeline, including AI processing. People love the quality of the photos and videos of their Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses. They get to live in the moment while still capturing and sharing it.”

“We tackled complexity at every dimension of the tech stack — delivering an experience that people can understand on a new platform they aren’t used to.”

These technical constraints inspired Rafael and his team to push the boundaries of what’s possible. They developed technologies the world hasn't seen — including an eye drop-shaped speaker with top-performing sound volume, dynamic range and low distortion. They also developed a five-microphone array with high-performing noise suppression and echo cancellation to improve the wearer experience. “Even though the smart glasses have relatively small compute capabilities due to size, power and thermal constraints, our team integrated a speech recognition engine, making basic voice commands available with low latency — ideal for voice and video calls on the go.”

Rafael standing next to two members of his team, pointing at the screen of a tablet and holding a pair of Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.

According to Rafael, this project has helped him grow his intuition and be willing to change course. “In the middle of the build process, the engineering team created a few samples with transparent materials and everyone loved them. So halfway into the design phase — with limited time left for manufacturing — we added the semi-transparent models to the launch product lineup. There was a lot of work on cosmetics and manufacturing processes to make the final product look and feel as great as it does.”

Bringing tech and human experiences together

Even as he describes next-gen innovation, Rafael illustrates how Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses enhance the core pleasures in his life with ease. As a cooking enthusiast, he integrates the technology into his favorite pastime — which he’s enjoyed with his mother since he was a young boy with a sweet tooth. “Picture wearing the hands-free smart glasses while cooking. You can be on a call, put on a timer, ask for a recipe — all without missing the best part of cooking: connection.”

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to play a small part in these meaningful, impactful projects.”

Talking to Rafael, it’s clear he’s built a career that brings his personal passions and professional ambitions together. “It’s so gratifying to know AR technologies open up learning opportunities for people. I imagine growing up in my small Spanish town — what would’ve happened if I had a headset to transport me all over the world? That’s what excites me and my team — this is just the tip of the iceberg for AR.”

Stay connected.

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