Remember when Mark Zuckerberg revealed his “metaverse” concept a few months back? The Facebook CEO imagines a future where social media weaves itself into the real world through wearable technology, eliminating the barrier created by phones. But the “metaverse” isn’t just some dorky idea for the future—it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s idealized business landscape. Ready or not, we’re seeing that landscape take shape with today’s launch of Ray-Ban Stories.
Unlike Google Glass or Facebook’s experimental Project Aria glasses, Ray-Ban Stories do not feature any built-in displays or crazy AR software. They won’t replace your phone, though they will help you shoot hands-free video using two discreet 5MP cameras and three microphones. The frames also pack two personal speakers for taking calls or listening to music, similar to Amazon’s Echo Frames.
Pressing a small shutter button on the Ray-Ban Stories frame lets you shoot a quick 30-second video. You can also hold the button to take a photo or use Facebook Assistant voice commands for a fully hands-free experience. These videos and photos are encrypted and stored within the Ray-Ban Stories until you download them using Facebook View, a companion app.
At best, Ray-Ban Stories are a stylish and convenient alternative to wearing a GoPro on your head. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there are a ton of situations where the glasses could come in handy—maybe you want to shoot video while skateboarding or painting, for example.
There’s also an interesting accessibility angle here. If you have a disability that impacts your motor skills, Ray-Ban Stories could make taking calls or capturing photos easier. Ray-Ban offers the glasses with clear or prescription lenses, so you’re not stuck buying a pair of shades, by the way.
But like all Facebook products, Ray-Ban Stories raise a lot of questions about privacy. Mark Zuckerberg tries to waive these concerns in the Ray-Ban Stories announcement video, and to his credit, it’s nice to see that the smart glasses have a recording indicator light and a power button.
But we’re talking about a pair of regular-looking glasses with two discreet camera lenses. They present a ton of opportunities for stalking and abuse in public and private settings. Wearing a camera on your face is very different from carrying a phone in your pocket, even with the tiny recording indicator LED (which would take two seconds to paint over).
Facebook’s proprietary View app is also troubling. It gives Facebook an excuse to handle all the photos and videos you shoot on Ray-Bay Stories. Given what we know about Facebook’s data-collecting practices, the company may use View to gather information on your location, your family members’ faces, and even your device battery life. This data helps Facebook build a detailed “profile” of your needs and interests, which it can turn into profit through targeted ads.
Unfortunately, targeted ads seem to be the driving force behind Zuckerberg’s “metaverse” concept. Wearable technology like smart glasses, smart watches, and VR headsets could allow Facebook to collect an unprecedented level of personal data—including health and weight data. And because the company is developing its own hardware and software, it can avoid the anti-tracking tech that’s growing more common in smartphones and browsers.
Ray-Ban Stories are on sale today for $300. If you can look past the privacy concerns, they seem like a useful medium for shooting hands-free video or photos. As with any new product, I suggest waiting for detailed reviews before pulling the trigger, though.
Source: Facebook, Ray-Ban