A launch without fanfare or trumpet for a new product that wants to be as discreet as possible but oh so strategic. Facebook was launched in France on Thursday April 14 with the first pair of connected glasses, the Ray-Ban Stories. Developed with the famous American eyewear manufacturer, they are sold for 329 euros each, almost twice the price of a pair of ordinary Ray-Bans.
Unlike classic binoculars, the Ray-Ban Stories hide many technological components that make them “connected glasses”smart glasses capable of photographer and filmer what the eyes of their owner see, but also of the diffuser of the music we phone calls through the temples of their frames.
Glasses worthy of a James Bond? Not at all, replies Facebook. The idea is to attract people who would prefer to share more authentic and spontaneous moments of life on the networks, to give a new dimension to “Stories”, the short sequences shared every day by billions of people on Instagram and Facebook. Explanations that have not convinced the defenders of privacy, worried about the intrusive potential of this new accessory called to invest the public space. Because beyond feeding Instagram feeds with more subjective images, these glasses are destined to become gateways to the metaverse, Facebook’s new strategic course that could transform the Internet.
What are Ray-Ban Stories for?
The Ray-Ban Stories are first and foremost Ray-Ban glasses, available in several colors in the WayFarer or Meteor versions, in sunglasses or with corrective lenses. They have two 5 MP cameras at eye level to capture photos (2592×1944 pixels) or video footage (1184×1184 pixels at 30 frames per second) GoPro style for up to sixty seconds. They sync with a companion app called Facebook viewwhere the saved images can be edited and shared on the usual smartphone social apps.
The Ray-Ban Stories also act as headphones thanks to open-ear speakers integrated into the temples of the glasses. An audio network made up of three microphones ensures the transmission of voice for calls and sound for listening to podcasts or streaming songs. Facebook promises sound quality comparable to that of conventional headphones or earphones thanks to background noise cancellation technology.
A simple press allows you to take a photo or film
Microphones are also used for voice commands glasses that can be controlled by voice to capture images or send messages hands-free. Facebook also says it is convinced that it is the audio experience that will most appeal to users in use, and in particular their mains use–freewhich was a preview of how people will interact with metaverses in the next few years.
We were able to try the Ray-Ban Stories before their launch. Facebook’s first connected glasses generally keep their promises, even if voice commands are quite limited at this stage. The photo and video functions are easy to use: a short press for a video and a long press for a photo. The connection with the smartphone is also easy to establish to quickly share the selected sequences. The audio part is in tune: the sound is good enough to be able to listen to music or make a call while remaining receptive to surrounding noise. The 7 hour battery life is sufficient for regular use.
Why is this a strategic project for Facebook?
Although they bear neither the name nor any mention of Facebook, the Ray-Ban Stories are a new strategic product for Meta, which aspires to develop its experience in new media to extend its influence beyond Internet 2.0.
Mark Zuckerberg believes that glasses are an important step towards democratizing metaverse, the famous virtual platform that promises to supplant smartphones within five to ten years, according to its promoters. The idea is to allow people to connect in a more immersive way by projecting themselves into virtual universes to discuss, work, be entertained and consume with a feeling of presence reinforced by the use of technologies such as virtual reality.
Ray-Ban Stories does not include virtual and augmented reality features at this time. These technologies, which allow images or text to be superimposed on the environment surrounding the user, are currently reserved for Oculus headsets, owned by Facebook. But the latter are heavy, insulating and tiring to use, major defects that hinder their adoption by the greatest number.
Ray-Ban Stories are a first step in getting people used to wearing smart glasses and use Facebook technologies through the eyes without having to touch the screen of your phone. A project on which all high-tech brands have broken their teeth so far, from Google to Snapchat via Microsoft or Amazon. A necessary gateway to make the metaverse acceptable. Meta also hopes to be able to launch more advanced models of real augmented reality features with 3D graphics in 2024.
Are these camera glasses a threat to privacy?
Because of their characteristics and because of Facebook’s history of privacy breaches, the launch of Ray-Ban Stories obviously raises its share of concerns. Since they’re hard to tell apart from regular sunglasses, unlike previous gimmicky-looking smartglasses like Snapchat’s Spectacles, they could eventually cause trouble in the public space if offered for widespread adoption in the mainstream. ‘ future and that any vacationer equipped with Ray-Ban is likely to film his neighbor without his knowledge.
Asked about this, Facebook says it is aware of the issues raised by its new product. The social network says it consulted experts from several NGOs during the development of the product and took certain steps to remove the doubts surrounding it, for example by blocking the possibility of filming live and beyond 60 seconds but also by launching a communication campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the proper use of glasses (asking people’s consent, not filming minors, turning them off in certain public places, etc.).
The firm also insists on the presence of sensors (discreet) which send a light signal when the camera of the camera of the glasses is activated to warn people around. In reality, our loved ones were often surprised to learn that they could be filmed or photographed by this accessory during our test. So much so that it is quite difficult at this stage to believe that the use of Ray-Ban Stories will not give rise to a certain amount of abuse.