Tech companies have been moving from device on device with the aim of offering new functionalities, and, of course, also sell more. The smartphone has come up with a companion that is already quite established, such as smart watches, their cousins, activity bracelets, smart speakers … But there, in the background of this family with such a presumptuous surname, there appear some distant relatives that until recently no one invited them to. Party. Yes, we talk about smart glasses in its different versions, from those that promise to record and have an audio connection, to those that want to transform our daily lives through augmented reality.
Some days ago Facebook finally introduced their Ray-Ban Stories, a product in alliance with the well-known eyewear firm that will be priced at $ 299 in reduced markets for now, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom or Italy.
Ray-Ban Stories are not a bombastic device for today’s tech level. Whoever wants to can record, they can broadcast live and make calls always supported by a smartphone that will back them up with a dedicated application. A product very far from what Facebook itself promises in its Oculus (although with them it is better not to go out on the street), from what it could do Apple with its glasses according to rumors that have been going on for years, or even the proposal that Xiaomi showed recently in the form of a prototype, which by means of an integrated panel could show us directions to get to a place.
And yet, they are the strongest proposal of a great technology for a gadget that seems buried since Google will present its Glass in 2013, and they seem hell-bent on becoming the next smartwatch.
Why is Facebook so interested in the world of smart glasses
This is the Ray-Ban Stories
The Ray-Ban Stories have in their favor a much more normalized aesthetic than of course Google’s Glass or even the interpretations that are being made of what Apple (perhaps) could present at some point.
In fact, only two cameras integrated into its temples – already wide of the classic Wayfarer model – make us feel a certain stupor or discomfort when we see them to know if they are recording us. But Zuckerberg has repeatedly made it clear that these glasses are only the spearhead of AR technology. that they have been testing with Oculus for years and that could result in their most ambitious and apparently remote project: the metaverse.
With the 2014 acquisition of virtual reality (VR) company Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality and augmented reality development wing, Facebook Reality Labs, has grown so much that it now reportedly employs 20% of Facebook’s workforce.
As soon as they are launched, Facebook glasses have already raised doubts in data protection agencies
Facebook sees augmented reality and virtual reality as a central component of its future, and anticipates that this technology will have a similar impact to the mobile revolution, Zuckerberg has said on several occasions. The metaverse, in this sense, would be anything that can be done virtually through AR and VR. At the moment, with applications that have begun to teach the paw in the world of work, such as having work meetings with the avatars of colleagues.
To this is added that the mobile, as a device, at some point it seems natural that it should begin to decline until it becomes non-existent (although the trend is towards larger screens). That is where the bet on smart watches can go already established, and who knows if glasses. “I don’t think we want to go through life with a phone in our pocket. We do it because it creates a lot of value for us “Zuckerberg told Fast Company.
Are you recording me with the glasses?
But in addition, Facebook seems to be trying to disengage from its own heritage, marked with scandals, by partnering with Ray-Ban. “By branding them as a Ray-Ban product rather than a Facebook one, with a classic style rather than a high-tech look, and with the ability to upload them to many different social media platforms, the company is trying to sell us the concept of smart glasses in general, rather than Facebook glasses, ”argue Ben Egliston and Marcus Carter, Ph.D. in research and digital culture in an article published in The Conversation.
It is also clear that this proposal far from causing the ‘robocop effect’ that Google glasses seemed to cause, with his visor to the Vegettas. They are embedded in normality.
However, the question about your privacy is basic. Facebook has launched the product in Italy, where their authorities have already asked about its use. In Spain, the legislation allows images to be recorded on public roads as long as they are not uploaded to the network (the app that accompanies the glasses, Facebook View, saves the videos locally), or that we use them as any user who uploads one storie to Instagram of a street in which there is no direct filming of someone without permission. Regarding its possible development with implementable facial recognition technologies, the Spanish Data Protection Agency has a clarifying letter that would prevent its use.
To warn someone that a wearer of these glasses is recording, Ray-Ban Stories have a white indicator light that indicates that you are taking pictures. Faced with a question from a Buzzfeed reporter who was able to test them and who covered this pilot with a simple permanent marker, Facebook replied that the only answer it has is that if someone does that they would be violating the policy of use of the device. ¯_ (ツ) _ / ¯
Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and Facebook View are ad-free experiences, so you won’t see ads when wearing the glasses or the app. And we don’t use the content of your photos and videos for personalized ads. If you share content with any other application, the terms of that application will apply.
The second attempt at smart glasses
This is what the Snap Spectacles looked like
In any case, the renewed commitment to glasses that has been cooking for a few years seems to be starting to making landfall obviously, waiting for what Apple will finally do or not do. And with this we will know whether or not the circle opened by Google a decade ago is closed.
Smart glasses hit the market as early as 2013, but most have focused on business customers, with only a few targeting consumers in a still very primal way.
In 2013, Google released the first Google Glass prototype to a select group of consumers before going public in May 2014. With a selling price of $ 1,500, the product was criticized for possible privacy issues related to its connected camera. In the end, it was one of the few but notorious failures of Google. Its consumer model was discontinued in 2015, and the company found a place by developing a line for use in warehouses and industry.
This latest version geared towards the business community was released in 2019, and is still being sold. With a retail price of $ 999, the model comes equipped with voice-activated applications that can be managed from a mobile device.
In a more recent way, Vuzix, a company that has been creating smart glasses products for a long time for business customers, this year it presented its first model focused on mass consumption with Wi-Fi connectivity and cameras. The journey of this company may indicate that some substrate on the future of glasses may exist. In 2015, Intel invested nearly $ 25 million to secure a 30% stake in the company.
Although without vocation because we take them down the street, Microsoft is also putting smart glasses at the service of the defense industry. Available for the first time to consumers in 2019, HoloLens glasses can overlay images and display computer programs. In 2019, the company was awarded a $ 479 million contract to deploy 100,000 prototypes in the US military in hopes of improving the effectiveness of soldiers, a move that came under severe criticism from its own employees.
In 2016, Snapchat made its foray into the smart glasses market with Spectacles, a wearable that allowed users to record videos to sync with their phones. Although it hasn’t been very popular with consumers, the latest version offers 3D capabilities and retails for $ 380, a fraction of the price of its competitors.
And is that the price of most smart glasses is still high, even for its business side. Offering an affordable price to the consumer is one way to accelerate deployment, And that’s where Facebook’s Ray-Bans can also be key.