Facebook and Ray-Ban unveiled their new collaboration – dubbed Ray-Ban Stories – on Thursday, introducing the latest foray into smart eyewear that injects tech capabilities into sunglasses.
The interface and features seem to favour simplicity over the complexity of some other smart devices or even some predecessors in the smart eyewear market. The glasses – which placed an emphasis on aesthetics and started at $299 – can record photos, take video, answer phone calls and play audio such as music and podcasts.
“We focussed on the design and only after that added the technology we believed would be most useful to people,” tweeted Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of virtual and augmented reality.
Privacy concerns rear their heads … again
The notion of at least semi-surreptitiously recording the world around oneself would provoke quarrels over privacy in any context, and Facebook’s attachment to just about anything has seemed to do the same.
The New York Times reported that Facebook and Ray-Ban’s parent company, Luxottica, did not opt to exclude Facebook from any eponymous branding as a result of privacy concerns surrounding Facebook, nor was Facebook attempting to skirt association with the chequered history of smart glasses.
The Times also reported, however, that the glasses can also store transcripts of user-to-Stories voice interactions, under the aegis of improving the virtual assistant function, which could raise the eyebrows of some users and watchdog groups.
Though Ray-Ban has the sole brand attachment to the product, Facebook’s profile is also visible as a Facebook account, and is required to use the glasses. Files are stored through the Facebook View app and company CEO Mark Zuckerberg modelled the product in a video released in conjunction with Thursday’s launch.
“We put this LED light on the front of the glasses so that people around you will know when you’re taking a photo or video. It lights up to let people know that the camera is on. That’s more than what smart phones do,” Zuckerberg said.
Is there demand?
Amazon and Bose are among the companies with competing products, and Google famously fell face-first with its elaborately designed but poorly received Google Glass technology.
Snap Spectacles, which were also fashion-focussed and designed for the Snapchat platform’s terse video recordings, also received a relatively tepid reception in the marketplace.
Still, this newest entry has generated interest, which led Bosworth to schedule a question-and-answer session for 12:30 am Friday London time (4:30 pm Thursday Pacific / 7:30 pm Eastern in North America).
Bosworth, Zuckerberg and their team were cognisant of competing products’ inability to break through, and included mention of the issue in their 90-second introduction of Ray-Ban Stories.
“Tech giants have dabbled with smart glasses for year, but it’s unclear if customers actually want them,” the presentation screen displayed in prominent type.