Last Thursday, Facebook finally launched its smart glasses in partnership with eyewear brand Ray-Ban. The futuristic sunglasses incorporate two small cameras and several tiny microphones and speakers. The new smart eyewear model comes eight years after Google launched its smart glasses, and five years after Snap revealed its camera glasses.
The line “Ray-Ban stories,” as it’s called the new model, was launched last Thursday at Ray-Ban’s stores across the US and the UK. Unexpectedly, the eyewear looks almost identical to the classic model firstly sold in 1952. But there’s a big difference: They have Facebook installed in them. And there is something even more surprising: They allow wearers to take pictures and capture videos of what they see, from a first-person perspective. They also allow wearers to listen to music and answer calls, although they do not have an augmented reality display.
The Ray-Ban stories will be available in 20 different styles with either dark or clear lenses. The prices for the smart glasses start at $299. Facebook also declared that there will be no ads, and that users’ content will never be used for personalised advertisement.
But will the new Facebook sunglasses revolutionize the way we take pictures and post on social media? Or will they be labeled as a threat to privacy? In 2015, Google had to suspend the sales of its smart glasses due to complaints that they represented a threat to privacy. Furthermore, Google glasses’ wearers strongly criticized the design of the glasses, which looked too bizarre.
To avoid this happening to their brand new model, Facebook and Ray-Ban designed their smart glasses by integrating cameras, microphones and speakers in a way that they are barely visible. But the barely imperceptible technologies might lead the company to face more accusations of breaching privacy. However, according to Matt Simari, product manager in Facebook’s AR and VR department, once the cameras are activated, other people around the wearer are alerted. Whenever the sunglasses’ wearer is recording a video, a small LED on the side of the glasses will light up, indicating to the surrounding people that they are being filmed.
Facebook smart glasses are just one of the several innovations of the smart eyewear market. Last May, Snap had already unveiled its new smart glasses, although with limited capabilities and targeted to a small audience only. Additionally, Apple has already announced that it will launch its smart eyewear model next year.
Although Simari refused to disclose sales targets, he said: “We’re not dipping our toe in the water, we’re jumping in. We really believe in this product, we believe in this category.”