After Google and Snapchat, Facebook is trying the bet (losing in advance) of connected glasses

Thursday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launches in France the “Stories”, connected glasses co-imagined with the Ray Ban brand. A new attempt to make the public adopt high-tech glasses, after many never really conclusive tests.

The Stories designed with Facebook are above all like glasses © AFP / Joan Cros / NurPhoto

Call them “Stories”, just like those little short clips that are easy to share on Instagram or Facebook. And for good reason, these glasses are intended to record sequences up to one minute, easy to share on social networks. This Thursday, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is making its connected glasses available in France, designed with the manufacturer Ray Ban – of which they represent the classic design.

For Meta, the bet is high, because, until now, connected glasses have never found their audience – for more than ten years, attempts have been configured and resemble each other in their respective failures. In 2011, it was Google that launched a revolutionary project of glasses without lenses but equipped with a screen capable of displaying information or notifications. Launched in 2013 as a consumer test prototype, they never got beyond this phase, and Google abandoned the project in 2015before redirecting it a few years later to professionals only.

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Google, Bose, Amazon or Snapchat did not pass the challenge

Without a screen, but with sunglasses and small cameras, the Spectacles, manufactured by Snap Inc, were created in 2016, with a simple concept: by tapping on one of the branches of the bezel, you started recording a a short video clip easy to share on Snapchat. In one year, the company has sold only 150,000 copies worldwide. She continued to update and refresh her glasses, but today the Spectacles 4, the first to integrate augmented reality, are not… accessible to the general public but only to “content creators”.

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Without a screen or camera, the Bose brand, which specializes in speakers and loudspeakers, also launched a range, called Frames, of glasses capable of broadcasting sound without headphones. Initially it was an innovative concept of audio augmented reality glasses : a system called BoseAR, which promised for example to GPS you only with voice, or to offer you the audioguide of a museum according to the paintings you are looking at. But in mid-2020, Bose announced the closure of its BoseAR branch: since then, the Frames, which are still sold, have therefore become simple innovative bluetooth headphones.

Amazon, which launched its “Echo Frames”, is betting on the same concept: integrating its Alexa assistant into a pair of glasses… and that’s it. Again, the feedback is mixed. and the device is currently not available in Europe. As for the more innovative projects, which include the display of information on the screen, they are still at the concept or prototype stage: Samsung, including a concept of augmented reality glasses leaked in 2021, does not has not yet given any news. At the end of 2021, Xiaomi presented an avant-garde model, the Mi11T, while claiming that it would never be marketed as is. And Apple, always awaited on the market, seems according to rumors to be closer to announcing a similar product.

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Glasses at least three years late?

So what about Stories, Facebook and Ray Ban glasses? The handling of the object left us skeptical: the Stories have a very simple operation, with a simple pressure on a branch, we start recording a video using the sensors (5 megapixels) placed on the parts of the frame. The glasses also have a built-in sound system for performing a few basic actions.

If all this certainly works very well, we looked for something new in this product… without success. The product is halfway between the Spectacles of Snap Inc. and the Frames of Bose, two products which on the one hand are respectively six years old and three years old, and whose success is all relative.

Create favorable ground for metaverses

The real advantage of Facebook with this model is to have partnered with Ray-Ban. Before being connected glasses, they are therefore above all glasses, which can even be worn when not using their connected functions (Spectacles or Google Glass are for example much less easy to wear). The very familiar design of the glasses makes their almost invisible connected aspect, and therefore very acceptable. Much more acceptable than any virtual reality headset, for example.

What if, after all, that was what Meta was looking for with her glasses? By offering a connected model that offers technologies lagging behind innovation, but well-established and discreet, Facebook accustoms some users to wearing connected glassesthat they will, even once in a while, talk to or that they will connect to their smartphone.

A perfect ground for a smooth transition, more easily acceptable by the public, towards possible future models that are more connected but also more intrusive.… in view of the famous metaverse, which no doubt will have to go one way or another through connected glasses. And a strategy that would thus be as clever as it is cynical.

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