Facebook and Ray-Ban make smart glasses that really look like glasses

On a sunny day in May 2012, the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, walked down King Street in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood with a pair of black, lensless smart glasses on his face.

He was testing the Google Glass about a month before the company publicly unveils the device. But he wasn’t really doing anything to him because he was out of battery (and I know this because I saw him walking down the street that day and asked him).

Google Glass ended up failing as a consumer product, with some users of the gadget dubbed “Glassholes” because of the device’s eerie feel and its prism-shaped screen over the eyes. But it set the stage for years of wonder and amazement about smart glasses: how should they be? What will we do with them? And who still wants to use them anyway?

In nearly a decade since then, many tech companies (including Amazon, Bose and Snap) have tried to answer these questions in different ways, but none have truly popularized the idea of ​​smart glasses.

On Wednesday (8), the Facebook became the last to offer a try to the public: the glasses, called the Ray-Ban Stories, were created with Ray-Ban (the brand is owned by eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica). Facebook expects them are used ​​for taking pictures and recording short videos, listening to music, and even making phone calls by anyone 13 years of age or older.

The glasses, which Facebook has tested in the past, start at $299 and come in three styles, including the iconic Ray-Ban Wayfarer, and in five shades (all colors, including blue and green, are at the far end. spectrum dark). They are initially being sold in some Ray-Ban stores and on the Ray-Ban.com website, and are available to buyers in six countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Looking, for the most part, not just like a regular pair of glasses, but in classic and popular style, Ray-Ban Stories solves one of the biggest problems facing Google Glass and many other rugged, cool smart glasses from the past. The electronics are so well hidden that there’s only a few hints that something is different about these specs: there is a built-in camera on the rim on each side of the glasses., for example. But in a pair of shiny Wayfarers, they seem to merge into the frame itself.

Hind Hobeika, product manager for augmented reality devices at Facebook Reality Labs, said the Ray-Ban Stories are “the first smart glasses people will want to wear“.

Facebook lent me a pair of Ray-Ban Stories with sunglasses lenses so I could decide for myself. After about a week of testing them it is clear that the glasses look a lot like a normal pair. But Facebook and Ray-Ban may not fully appreciate the enormous challenge that remains in convincing people to buy and use this wearable device, especially when its features seem simpler than essential.

Look a lot like sunglasses

The first thing I noticed when I put the sunglasses on is that they looked a lot like… sunglasses.

Of course, there’s an on-off switch hidden in the left lens of the glasses, a slim button for taking photos and recording videos on top of the right lens, a slim speaker built into each lens, and a front LED light that glows on white tones when you take a photo or record a video. There’s also a touchpad on the right lens, though you can’t see it.

But the glasses weigh just a little more (five grams, according to Facebook) than a standard pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers, which makes them comfortable to wear for long periods. They’re also not annoying to carry around: similar to Snap’s glasses, they can be carried in their cases. Like many other smart glasses released after Google Glass, they don’t have a screen.

Ray Ban Stories / Reproduction / Facebook

Pros and cons

Ray-Bans are surprisingly good for listening to music or making phone calls. The audio sounded crisp and dynamic during a nature walk, though it didn’t alter the sounds of birds and squirrels. I was a little embarrassed listening to the songs, as anyone within a few feet could hear some snippets of what I was listening to. I also had trouble using the touchpad, which often interpreted my attempts to turn up the volume as pausing the music, or that I wanted to turn it up when I actually wanted to turn it down.

The glasses were more fun to wear while playing with my kids in the park, as playground antics (like entering a tunnel meant for five-year-olds) make it difficult to pull a smartphone to capture the moments. I was able to take a series of photos and videos of my kids that are often difficult to capture while we are playing.

However, while the glasses’ selling point allows you to be immersed for a moment during capture, I had the opposite experience when taking still pictures. Often, even though I was looking directly at an object—a flower, a slice of pizza—I either couldn’t capture the whole thing, or I couldn’t center the image or get the close-up I wanted.

At one point, I poked my head into the bush in the local park to get close to a frog. And I didn’t get a good shot at the end.

Reporter Rachel Metz Tests Ray-Ban Stories / Rachel Metz/CNN Business

Ray-Ban Stories has a companion smartphone app called Facebook View to let you view, edit and share images and videos. It was easy to send photos to friends through the app and I was able to create beautiful video montages of my kids with just a few taps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a video on his Facebook page on Monday showing him paddling a boat while wearing Ray-Ban Stories, but the glasses aren’t splash or water resistant, so you should keep them on. them out of the pool.

Was I turning into a “face in the hole”?

Even while pressing a computer that is in your face and despite these efforts, I couldn’t help but feel like I was getting away with something while using the Ray-Ban Stories in public. As far as I could tell, no one noticed anything unusual in the glasses as I chased my kids across a busy playground, even when I was shooting several short videos (It was impossible to tell, but maybe the bright sun made the glasses’ white LED less noticeable). I went into stores with them, took pictures of myself in mirrors, and no one even blinked. It would have been easy to use these glasses to invade other people’s privacy.

Was this turning me into a “face in the hole”? [em referência às fotos que possuem um buraco branco nos rostos das pessoas, que podem ser preenchidos por qualquer face em apps de edição]

I spoke to Jeremy Greenberg, policy advisor for the Future of Privacy Forum and one of the people Facebook spoke to while developing the Ray-Ban Stories, about my experience. He said there are “definitely some concerns” that people might not notice that I’m capturing photos and videos — something that would have been more obvious if I had picked up my phone.

“It will be interesting to see, if this technology spreads, how are people going to develop this cultural understanding that your image can be made, a video can be made?” he asked. “And this really ‘time will tell’.”

And after days of trying them out, I still didn’t have the feeling that I (or anyone, for that matter) needed this pair of Ray-Bans. You may need prescription glasses or sunglasses and a smartphone. But it’s going to be hard for Facebook to convince most people that they need to have a device that can replicate some of the phone’s features — even if it looks so good.

(Translated text. Read here the original in English.)

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