Facebook, in partnership with the renowned glasses company Ray-Ban, presented on Thursday, September 09 their “Ray-Ban Stories”: smart glasses with cameras, microphones and the ability to control music, podcasts or answer calls on the smartphone.
They function exactly like a SmartWatch – ordinary wearables that have been on the market for years, but they are now right in front of you with a whole lot of added features!
Okay, let’s be honest – this idea isn’t new, and Facebook is not the first company to invest in such tech products. Google once created the “Google Glasses”, which were never officially sold, and Snapchat recently released two versions of “Spectacles”, which have similar functions to Facebook’s/Ray-Ban’s glasses.
However, Facebook has a big goal for its new venture – to avoid what was the main problem with previous attempts. This means making the glasses look as common as possible, and not as pieces of science fiction equipment, but as a fashion item with bonus additional functions.
These sunglasses have 2 cameras, 2 micro speakers, 3 microphones and a processor designed by Snapdragon, which produces most of the semiconductor chips (SoC) for mobile devices with the Android operating system.
And what’s promised is top-quality performance in capturing audio and images. The glasses, according to Facebook, can run for six hours on a full battery and come with a case that charges them via USB-C.
To use them, you must have a Facebook account – of course – and pair the glasses with your smartphone via the “Facebook View” app. With them, the user will be able to record videos of up to 30 seconds or take photos; they’ll be capable of storing 500 images or 30 recordings.
It’s claimed there are encryption codes that protect the images, which are transferred to the mobile device, and that the voice commands – which are recorded – can be deleted later by the user.
With regard to the issue of “ethics”, a small LED light flashes on the front of the glasses when they are recording videos or taking photographs, to avoid “privacy issues”, according to Facebook.
According to Facebook’s press release, the glasses have five colour options, three different models, plus 20 frame variations and lenses can be clear, sunglasses, transition (which switch according to the environment) or prescription lenses.
By clicking the button on the side of the frame, you can record videos. How about taking a picture with your Ray-Ban Stories? Then press the button. You can’t use your hands? No worries! A voice command can be used to trigger the Facebook Voice Assistant.
Another great feature is that these sunglasses were also designed to record your moments, even when you’re on the move. If a person wearing the glasses shakes his head or even skateboards: Ray-Ban Stories will pick up that image anyway, the company claims.
With human movements in mind, Facebook has adopted optimisations that include a video stabilizer, as well as noise removal, HDR and Low Light Fusion. The social network has also applied machine learning to improve users’ files. The tool will even render the colour tones of photos and videos recorded by Ray-Ban Stories.
Not only that – but with these new sunglasses, the user can also listen to music and podcasts, answer calls – and to charge the device, you only need to place the Ray-Ban Stories rod inside the charging case, which replaces your conventional glasses case.
Facebook View – the new app to store videos and photos from Ray-Ban Stories
Along with the new smart glasses, Facebook is launching an app for Android and iOS where users will be able to share videos and photos. The app, called Facebook View, talks to other apps installed on the mobile phone, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat.
Facebook View is also the place where people will be able to save all content recorded by Ray-Ban Stories and users can edit their photos directly from the app with “exclusive tools”, according to the manufacturer.
Smart glasses capable of recording and photographing with a built-in audio system are generating buzz in the privacy arena. This seems to be one of Facebook’s main stumbling blocks with the launch of Ray-Ban Stories.
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg himself pointed this out in the video when launching the glasses and he said that they “do more than most smartphones” when it comes to privacy: when the user activates the device to take a picture or record, a white LED light comes on in the frame, indicating that the glasses are on and the camera has been activated.
“There’s also a button to turn the glasses off, for when you are, for example, in a private space,” says Zuckerberg. “When your glasses are off, it means they’re actually off: the microphone won’t work, and you can’t take photos or record videos.”
But Facebook warns that, by default, Ray-Ban Stories collects some data “necessary for your glasses to work”. Some of the information captured by the smart devices are:
● Battery status, so the eyewear will let you know when it’s needing to recharge
● E-mail ID
● Facebook Password
● WiFi connectivity
● Facebook account access to identify if the owner of the profile is the same as the one on Ray-Ban Stories. This verification happens every time the glasses are connected to the social network via Wi-Fi.
“You can opt-in to share additional data — which includes information like the number of images you’ve captured or how long you spend taking videos — with Facebook for product development, improvement, and personalization.
This setting can be changed at any time,” the company said – which means that users can choose to share additional data through the smart glasses ONLY if they wish.
There is no requirement to activate functions of the glass with Facebook’s Virtual Assistant. You’ll be able to turn audio transcription and voice storage on or off in the Facebook View settings.
Ray-Ban Stories is ad-free. The user will not see advertisements while wearing the smart gadget. Facebook also says it will not use users’ images or voices to target personalised ads.
Users are reassured that Ray-Ban Stories will only work on a single account: if anyone found the glasses and managed to unlock them, all the videos and photos would be gone. If a person tries to hack it using a new phone or Facebook account, the same thing happens.
In order to make the public aware of the data collection and privacy terms and conditions that come with the launch of Ray-Ban Stories, Facebook has created a new page on its privacy microsite dedicated to the new product.
Finally, the company says it has consulted academics and experts in the fields of “privacy, security and civil liberties around the world for feedback”:
“As smart glasses become part of everyday life, we have a responsibility to help explore the big questions and set new standards in an open and inclusive way. We can’t do that alone,” the company states.
Mark Zuckerberg is confident that in the future people will not have to choose what device to use because smart glasses will be one of its pillars and according to the CEO, smart glasses are the beginning of a future where mobile phones may not be an essential part of our lives.
Zuckerberg wants to build a metaverse around augmented and virtual reality technologies. He has been seconding key people within Facebook and companies controlled by the network, such as Instagram, to Facebook Reality Labs.
As much as Facebook invests in augmented reality as part of Zuckerberg’s projected “future”, the new smart glasses don’t innovate in the field: it’s not able to reflect video calls into the lens, or offer an instant interface of videos and photos taken. To check the files, the user actually uses a smartphone app – but still a good “start”.
It really is a “start”, because Snapchat itself launched the Spectacles line – glasses with built-in cameras – in 2016. The Ray-Ban Stories is inspired by the same idea (one of its models – Round – is actually very similar to Spectacles), although it has significant changes, with the audio system and microphone.
The Facebook x Ray-Ban smart glasses will be available at launch in six countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the price is expected to range from £299 to £738.
Eyewear lovers will recognise three traditional Ray-Ban eyewear models: Round, Wayfarer and Meteor. But there’ll be 20 new eyewear variations available on the market.
The frames will be offered in four colour options — Black, Blue, Brown, and Green and with six lens options including regular, polarised, and transition lenses. Users can select between Clear with Blue Light Filter, Brown, Dark Grey, Green, Polarised Dark Blue, Transitions Clear with Dark Green lenses. There’ll be plenty of options!
As more details come to light, I’m sure there’s going to be a great deal of buzz around this product. Especially closer to release, which is already hotly anticipated by many. Will you be lining up for a pair?