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Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories make the case for smart glasses – TechCrunch

Facebook’s first pair of smart glasses don’t feel like much of a Facebook product. You won’t find the Facebook logo emblazoned on them or its name in small print by the serial code. They aren’t Facebook Stories, Ray-Ban’s, or even Ray-Ban Stories in collaboration with Facebook. Unlike other Facebook-designed hardware like the Quest 2 or Portal, the Ray-Ban Stories feel more self-aware and restrained, as though the company knew exactly what use cases they needed to hit and stopped themselves from trying to do much more than that. The glasses made in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica are certainly the virtual device Facebook has shipped. They only do a few things. You can take photos and videos, make phone calls, and listen to music. That’s it. But bringing audio into the mix via near-ear speakers embedded in the frames’ arms makes these a much more realized device than Snap’s Spectacles, which shipped five years ago.


Ray-Ban’s classic dumb Wayfarers (left) next to the intelligent Ray-Ban Stories Wayfarers (right)

Let’s dig into what this device does and how it feels to use daily. One thing to note about the $299 Ray-Ban Stories is that they can be worn inconspicuously. People are probably more likely to notice the cameras than their slightly inflated dimensions. The Ray-Ban partnership was particularly savvy given the thicker-than-average frames on their standard Wayfarer design. That’s already a revolutionary advance pushing these past the “toy” level tentacles that never really seemed to eclipse.

Onlookers are more likely to notice that you tap the frame of your glasses to control them. Pressing the button on the right arm will take a 30-second video, and a long-press will snap a photo. You can also use the voice command, “Hey Facebook, take a video,” and do the same for images — for the record, I’m not sure whether this is a sentence I’d feel great about hearing a stranger nearby me in public say. A small LED light sparks when the camera captures footage, though it’s a pretty indicator.

The photo and video quality of the glasses are pretty middling, but plenty of forgiveness can be levied given the device’s size. The twin 5 MP cameras can shoot 2592 x 1944 pixel photos and 1184 x 1184 pixel square format videos. The quality seemed on par with smartphone cameras ten years ago, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Post-processing on the phone during upload enhances the photos and hides some of their struggles with low lighting while making the images pop more with saturation.

The twin camera setup adds 3D effects to your photos, but the thelters aren’t great, and there’s not much there. Hopefully, Facebook will invest a bit more in the software over time. Still, with relatively low-quality photos, I don’t see the reasoning behind having two cameras. Also worth noting is that using the glasses requires linking them to a new Facebook app called View, which is a simple media viewer app that gets around limitations in how media from external devices can be uploaded to your phone. This is where you can also make quick edits to your photos and videos before dumping them into your photo roll or sharing them on Facebook or Instagram.

Audio is probably the most exciting bit of these glasses. The near-ear speakers will surprise you with their quality in quiet spaces, leaving you dissatisfied once in a noisier environment. Unfortunately for Facebook, most outdoor spaces are louder, and sunglasses are primarily used outdoors. The audio will work in a pinch outdoors for listening to tunes, but I honestly can’t see them replacing my AirPods anytime soon. The audio is much better suited for low-fidelity activities like phone calls, but I also had some issues with the three-microphone array picking up too much background noise while walking outdoors.

Battery life is surprisingly solid, but they also benefit from a charging battery case, which is the best place to store them. The point is a little bulky but includes a microfiber pouch to protect the lenses. Facebook says you can get 6 hours of straight audio and “all-day” usage otherwise. One of their weirder quirks is their lack of waterproofing or even splash-proofing, which doesn’t seem like an excellent quality for a pair of sunglasses. It’s just one more thing indicating that while the thicker frame aesthetic of sunglasses makes more sense for a smart glasses design, this product thrives more indoors. This isn’t Facebook’s first rodeo for hardware, and you can see the company’s maturation.

On-ear audio born from the Oculus Go, a touchpad interface reminiscent of the Gear VR, restrained and straightforward audio controls first launched on the Quest. They aren’t AR/VR devices, but you can also see generations of Oculus products in the Ray-Ban Stories’ design. The hardware distills features and lessons learned from selling VR to a generally indifferent public that has seemed to warm up to it over the years. Meanwhile, you can also see years of Facebook screwing up its messaging and torching its brand name in the process, making itself the boogeyman of both political parties, courting enemies in the press, and earning an excessive amount of distrust from the average internet user, something that probably led to these carrying so little Facebook branding.

The Ray-Ban Stories will undoubtedly have their detractors. Still, Facebook chose to be conservative in their functionality, and not tossing in too many future-flung passive sensors will likely favor them. The Facebook View app is bare-bones, and Facebook details that photos and videos captured using the Stories won’t serve ads. All that said, while we’ve certainly come a long way since the Google Glass debut in 2013, face-mounted cameras still feel icky regarding privacy in public. This device will undoubtedly reignite that conversation in a significant way. Baggage aside, my broadest takeaway is that the Ray-Ban Stories feel like an essential product — one that sells the idea of face-worn wearables.

The glasses are smartly designed and can be worn discreetly. That said, it’s apparent Facebook made plenty of sacrifices to achieve such an aggressive form factor; the glasses honestly don’t do anything particularly sound — photo and video quality are pretty lackluster, the in-frame speakers perform poorly outdoors, and calls aren’t the most pleasant experience. For some, $299 might make the first generation a tough sell. Still, all that said, I think Facebook mostly made the right compromises for a product that they’ve repeatedly indicated is meant to be a stepping stone on the road toward an augmented reality future.


I have always enjoyed writing and reading other people's blogs. I started writing a journal as a teenager and have since written numerous books and articles. My blog is a place where I can write freely about my personal interests and those of others.

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