Smart glasses are an interesting concept that, for the most part, haven’t exactly taken off. Google’s Glass, while cool, has largely remained a niche product used in enterprise with no consumer-oriented product ever really taking off. Snap Inc’s Spectacles were definitely consumer focused, but rather hard to actually get … and the functionality was fairly limited outside of use with Snapchat.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the smart glasses market really hasn’t moved much, but today, it steps forward a touch.
Facebook has partnered up with respected glasses maker Ray-Ban to bring us Ray-Ban Stories, which are basically smart glasses incorporated into the timeless (and effortlessly stylish) Ray-Ban Wayfarer design.
The headline feature are the built-in 5MP cameras (one on each side) and three microphones which allow the Stories to capture .. as the name might imply .. stories. You can take photos and short videos by pressing a button on the right arm (or, hands free if you don’t mind saying things like “Hey Facebook, take a photo”) and seamlessly get them onto your social media apps of choice with a couple of clicks.
You might be thinking but, uh .. what about privacy? Glasses that look like glasses that can surreptitiously take photos and videos, that’s a bit risky, right? Well yes, of course it is. These look almost exactly like normal Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and from a distance, absolutely no one would know the difference.
Cognizant of this, the design incorporates a couple of LEDs – one faces outwards and indicates when the cameras are operating. One also faces inward, so the wearer can see (in the top right of their field of vision) that the cameras are taking a snap (or a video). The external camera is electrically interlinked with the sensor operation, so there’s absolutely no way to disable it short of destroying the glasses .. which wouldn’t exactly be very subtle.
All this being said, there’s probably some places you shouldn’t wear these.
Putting that to one side, the “Facebook View” app – which is available now for Apple’s iOS and Android – allows you to pair the glasses with your phone, download videos and photos from the glasses, and change a few settings.
Most of your interaction though will be with the glasses themselves, though. There’s a shutter button on the right side, with a short press to start a video recording, and a press and hold to take a snapshot. Be quick, though, otherwise the snapshot will capture your hand and that’s not too useful. The voice commands make for a better photo, and a more natural video, too.
There’s a touch pad on the right hand side which can be used to control the audio functions, to adjust volume and to play/pause, skip and rewind and to answer/end calls.
The Stories’ arms have built-in directional speakers which fire right into your ears, meaning you can go for a walk in Sydney’s glorious weather and have your tunes with you in your glasses without needing anything extra. The sound quality and volume seems to be pretty good, but no substitute for earphones or buds for those bass-heavy tracks.
Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories are available today for $449 from Ray-Ban stories, OPSM and Sunglasses Hut in a number of variations, with different styles, lens options and colours. You will be able to get them made up with prescription glass too, for those who need it, and with tinted, polarised, transition or clear lenses for indoor, outdoor and combined use.
I’ve not had too much time to fully explore the Ray-Ban Stories, but a more fulsome review will be coming soon!