Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories Defend Smart Glasses – TechCrunch

The first pair of Facebook of smart glasses doesn’t feel like a great Facebook product.

You won’t find the Facebook logo stamped on them or even your name in fine print with the serial code. They are not Facebook Stories or Ray-Ban Facebook Stories or even Ray-Ban Stories in collaboration with Facebook. Unlike other Facebook-designed hardware like Quest 2 or Portal, the Ray-Ban stories they feel more self-aware and restrained as if the company knew exactly what use cases they needed to address, and stopped themselves from trying to do much more than that.

Glasses made in association with eyewear giant Essilor Luxottica are arguably the most basic device Facebook has ever shipped. They just do a few things, you can take photos and videos, you can take phone calls, and you can listen to music. That is all. But bringing audio into the mix through close-to-ear speakers embedded in the frame arms makes them a much more accomplished device than Snap’s Spectacles, which shipped five years ago.

The classic silly Wayfarers from Ray-Ban (left) alongside the clever Wayfarers from Ray-Ban Stories (right)

Let’s dive a bit into what this device does and how it feels to use it in daily life.

One thing to note about the $ 299 Ray-Ban stories is that they can be used without attracting attention. People are likely to notice the cameras more than their slightly inflated dimensions. That’s already a revolutionary breakthrough, pushing them beyond the “toy” level that Spectacles never seemed to overshadow. The Ray-Ban partnership was particularly clever given the thicker-than-average frames in their standard Wayfarer design.

What viewers are most likely to notice is that you touch the frame of your glasses to control them. Pressing the button on the right arm will take a 30 second video, long press will take a photo. You can also use the voice command, “Hey Facebook, take a video” and do the same with the photos. For the record, I’m not sure if this is a sentence. It would feel great to hear a stranger near me in public. tell. A small LED light turns on when the camera is capturing images, although it is a fairly inconspicuous indicator.

The photo and video quality of the glasses is pretty average, but a lot of forgiveness can be imposed given the size of the device. The twin 5 MP cameras can take 2592 x 1944 pixel photos and 1184 x 1184 pixel square format videos. The quality seems to be on par with where smartphone cameras were around ten years ago, so it’s clear there’s a lot of room for improvement. Post-processing on the phone while charging enhances photos and hides some of your low-light issues while making photos pop a bit more with saturation.

The twin camera settings are used to add 3D effects to your photos, but right now the filters aren’t great, and honestly, there’s not much there. Hopefully Facebook invests a bit more in the software over time, but with pretty low-quality photos, I don’t fully see the rationale for having two cameras to begin with.

It’s also worth noting that wearing the glasses requires linking them to a new Facebook app called View, which is basically a simple media viewing app that bypasses limitations on how media from external devices can be uploaded to. your phone. This is where you can also do quick edits on your photos and videos before downloading them to your photo roll or sharing them on Facebook or Instagram.

The audio is probably the most interesting part of these glasses. Close-ear speakers will surprise you with their quality in quiet spaces and will leave you unsatisfied once you find yourself in a noisy environment. Unfortunately for Facebook, most outdoor spaces are a bit louder and sunglasses are mostly worn outdoors. Audio will work in an outdoor rush to hear tunes, but I honestly can’t see them replacing my AirPods anytime soon. The audio is much better suited for lo-fi activities like phone calls, but I also had some issues with the three-mic array picking up too much background noise while walking outdoors.

The battery life is surprisingly solid, but they also have the advantage of a battery charging box which, by the way, is the best place to store them. The case is a bit bulky but they also include a microfiber sleeve to protect the lenses. Facebook says otherwise you can get 6 hours of audio straight and use “all day”.

One of its weirder quirks is its lack of waterproofing or even splash proof, something that doesn’t seem like a great quality for a pair of sunglasses. It’s just one more thing that indicates that while the thicker frame aesthetic of sunglasses makes more sense for a smart glasses design, this product really does thrive more indoors.

This isn’t Facebook’s first detour when it comes to hardware and you can see the company maturing.

They are not an AR / VR device, but you can also see generations of Oculus products on the Ray-Ban stories‘ design. On-ear audio born from Oculus Go, a touch panel interface reminiscent of the Gear VR, simple and restricted audio controls first released in Quest. The hardware is a distillation of features and lessons learned from selling VR to a generally uncaring audience that seems to have gotten a bit used over the years.

Meanwhile, years of Facebook can also be seen ruining your posts and burning your brand in the process, becoming the bogeyman of both political parties, courting enemies in the press, and gaining enormous mistrust from the average internet user, somewhat. that probably led to these having so little Facebook branding. The Ray-Ban Stories will certainly have their detractors, but Facebook’s choice to be conservative in its functionality and not dump too many passive sensors thrown into the future will likely do them a favor. The Facebook View application is basic and Facebook states that photos and videos captured with Stories will not be used to serve ads. All that said, while we’ve certainly come a long way since the debut of Google Glass in 2013, face-mounted cameras still feel disgusting when it comes to privacy in public and this device will undoubtedly rekindle that conversation in a major way.

Baggage aside, my broader conclusion is that the Ray-Ban stories Feel like a very important product, one that really sells the idea of ​​wearables worn on the face.

The glasses are elegantly designed and can be worn discreetly. That said, it’s clear that Facebook made a lot of sacrifices to achieve such an aggressive form factor; honestly, the glasses don’t do anything particularly well – photo and video quality is pretty mediocre, in-frame speakers perform poorly outdoors, and calls aren’t the most pleasant experience. For $ 299, that might make the first gen hard to sell for some, but all that said, I think Facebook mostly made the right compromises for a product that they have repeatedly indicated is meant to be a stepping stone down the road. towards a future of augmented reality.

Facebook’s Smart Ray-Ban Stories along with my pair of classic Ray-Ban 2140 Wayfarers

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