Facebook has teamed up with iconic brand Ray-Ban with the audacious release of the next generation of smart glasses — Ray-Ban Stories.
But while phones, TVs, fridges, and even washing machines have become “smart”, no company has been able to properly nail the seemingly simple challenge of upgrading the humble pair of glasses – improving technology that’s been around since at least Greek and Roman times.
But Ray-Ban and Facebook may have just done it with their new venture, Ray-Ban Stories.
The luxury brand and social media giant joined forces to release the stylish new product packed with features. In a virtual announcement, the smart glasses were unveiled today by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Wearables Officer for EssilorLuxottica Rocco Basilico.
I was shipped a pair this week for review and was immediately fascinated.
Ray-Ban Stories capabilities
Ray-Ban Stories was developed to allow people to seamlessly capture everyday moments as they happen, without reaching for their phones.
The main capabilities can be summed as capture, listen and share.
The glasses have built-in 5MP cameras and a three microphone array.
EssilorLuxottica says the goal is to let people capture moments through their eyes, as they happen, so they can focus on being present, not fumbling for a photo.
Incredibly, this technology adds just 5g of weight to a standard pair of glasses.
When taking a photo or video, choose between using the Capture Button or hands-free voice commands.
Simply say: “Hey Facebook, take a photo/video” to quickly take videos (up to 30 seconds) and photos without having to pull out your phone.
I tried it out, and it worked immediately, without even needing to learn my voice like the Google Home systems.
There’s an important note to make here about privacy.
Glasses that allow you to take photos surreptitiously, like something made by Q for James Bond, are rightly viewed with suspicion.
The developers of Ray-Ban Stories have tackled this issue head-on.
A capture LED lights up when the cameras are on, and photography or recording is taking place.
You also have the choice between automatic or custom uploads to the companion Facebook View app, available on both Apple and Android smartphones.
I think they dealt with the privacy issue appropriately.
Ray-Ban Stories features integrated open-ear audio and microphones so you can listen to your favorite music and podcasts or take a call while on the go.
The glasses discretely project audio directly towards the ear to maximize audio quality.
This allows you to maintain contact with your environment while also listening to your favorite tunes.
As an avid podcast listener, one of the first things I did was check audio capabilities.
I cranked up a file on my phone used Bluetooth to play on Ray-Ban Stories.
I was immediately impressed by the directed audio quality.
It also worked sufficiently well for phone calls and even an editorial meeting for news.com.au on Google Hangouts.
The microphone array and speakers really live up to the hype.
The Facebook View app allows you to view, edit, and customize your media with unique creative formats.
For example, you can combine several videos into a montage and even use the two cameras to transform photos into short 3D videos.
You can then share to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, and other social media platforms.
Ray-Ban Stories will come in three styles: Wayfarer (Wayfarer L considered a size), Round, and Meteor.
Additionally, the glasses will be offered in five colors (Shiny Black, Black Matte, Shiny Blue, Shiny Olive, Shiny Brown) and six lens types (G-15 Dark Green, Photochromatic G-15 Green, Dark Grey, Dark Blue, Brown Gradient, Clear + Blue).
You’ll also be able to get prescription lenses.
You can add flair to your style by choosing various lenses: sun, prescription, polarised, gradient, Transitions, and transparent.
What’s under the hood
Ray-Ban Stories is powered by a Snapdragon processor.
The glasses have dual integrated 5MP cameras, a three-microphone audio array, and directed speakers.
Ray-Ban Stories comes with a specially-designed charging case.
The battery will last you three days with moderate use.
What’s the verdict
I think EssilorLuxottica and Facebook landed on the right mix with these smart glasses.
They’ve kept the distinctive style of Ray-Ban while adding the type of technology that people are expecting.
The effort the development team put into making the cameras blend in with the design of the glasses was time well spent. The directed audio was also an elegant solution.
Overall, I really liked Ray-Ban Stories and would definitely consider buying a pair.
How can you get a pair?
Ray-Ban Stories is available at Ray-Ban stores and Ray-Ban.com from September 10 in Australia.
On September 13, they will also be available at select OPSM and Sunglass Hut stores (were not in lockdown) and from 7pm online.
The starting price is (AUD) $449.