Facebook’s first pair of smart glasses doesn’t feel like a Facebook product.
You won’t even find his name in small print by the Facebook logo or serial code on them. they are not Facebook Stories Or Ray-Ban’s Facebook Stories or even Ray-Ban Stories in association with Facebook. Unlike other Facebook-designed hardware such as Quest 2 or Portal, Ray-Ban Stories Feel more self-aware and restrained as if the company knew what use cases they needed to hit, and restrained themselves from trying to do much more than that.
The glasses, made in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica, are certainly the most basic device Facebook has shipped. They only do a few things, you can take photos and videos, you can take phone calls and you can listen to music. That’s all. But bringing audio into the mix via near-ear speakers embedded in the arms of the frame makes it feel more like Snap’s Spectacles shipped five years ago.
Let’s take a closer look at what this device does and what it’s like to use it in daily life.
One thing to note about Ray-Ban Stories is that they can be worn very imperceptibly. People are probably more likely to notice cameras than their slightly inflated dimensions. This is already a revolutionary advance, taking them beyond the level of “toys” that never really seemed eclipsed. The Ray-Ban partnership was particularly sensible, as they had thicker-than-average frames on the standard Wayfarer design.
Viewers are more likely to see that you are tapping the frame of your glasses to control them. Pressing the button on the right hand side will result in 30 seconds of video, long press will capture a picture. You can also use the voice command, “Hey Facebook, take a video” and do the same for photos – for the record, I’m not sure if it’s a sentence or not, I’m not sure what’s around me. It would be great to hear a stranger say something in public. A small LED light flashes when the camera is capturing footage, although this is a very low-key indicator.
The photo and video quality of the specs is fairly moderate, but a lot can be forgiven considering the size of the device. The twin 5 MP cameras can shoot 2592 x 1944 pixel photos and 1184 x 1184 pixel square format videos. It looks like the quality was almost on par with smartphone cameras ten years ago, so it’s clear there’s a lot of room for improvement. Post-processing on the phone during upload enhances photos and hides some of their struggles with low light while making photos pop a bit more with saturation.
The twin camera setup is used to add 3D effects to your photos, but the filters aren’t great at the moment and honestly there isn’t much. Hopefully, Facebook invests a little more in the software over time, but with fairly low quality photos, I don’t see a whole lot of logic to start with two cameras.
It’s also worth noting that using the glasses requires them to be connected to a new Facebook app called View, which is basically a simple media viewer app that learns how to upload media from external devices to your phone. Yes, it has its limits. 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.
The audio is probably the most interesting bit of these specs. The near-ear speakers will surprise you with their quality in quiet places and leave you unsatisfied once you find yourself in a noisy environment. Unfortunately for Facebook, most of the outdoor space is a bit high and the sunglasses are mostly being used outside. The audio will work out in a pinch for listening to tunes, but I honestly can’t see them replacing my AirPods anytime soon. Audio is much better for low-fidelity activities like phone calls, but I also had some problems with the three-microphone array picking up a lot of background noise when I was outside.
Battery life is surprisingly solid, but they also have the advantage of a charging battery case which is incidentally the best place to store them. The case is a bit bulky but they also include a microfiber pouch to protect the lens. Facebook says you can get 6 hours of live audio and “all day” usage.
They’re not AR/VR devices, but you can see generations of Oculus products in it Ray-Ban Stories‘ Design. On-ear audio born out of Oculus Go, a touchpad interface reminiscent of the Gear VR, with simple and restrained audio controls first launched on the Quest. The hardware is a distillation of the features and lessons learned from selling VR to a generally nostalgic public that has been warming it up a bit over the years.
In the meantime, you can see Facebook spoofing its messaging and setting its brand name on fire in the process, making itself the boogeyman of both political parties, facing enemies in the press and average. The internet has been earning a huge amount of mistrust from users, something that was probably why Facebook was getting such a low branding. Still, Ray-Ban Stories will certainly have their detractors, but Facebook choosing to be conservative in its functionality and not toss in too many passive censors in the future will likely do them a favor.
We’ve come along since the introduction of Google Glass in 2013, but face-mounted cameras still feel tricky when it comes to privacy in public and this device will undoubtedly rule that conversation.
My broadest conclusion is that Ray-Ban Stories Feel like a very important product – one that actually sells the idea of face wear. The glasses are cleverly designed and can be worn with care. That said, it’s clear that Facebook made a lot of sacrifices to achieve such an aggressive form factor; The specs honestly don’t do anything particularly well – photo and video quality is pretty low, the in-frame speakers perform poorly and calls aren’t the most pleasant experience. All that said, I think Facebook has made the right deal for a product that they have repeatedly hinted at is a step on the road toward augmented reality glasses.