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Ray-Ban Smart Glasses Put the ‘Face’ Into Facebook

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Facebook is getting into the smart glasses business in a big way, partnering with the premiere shades company Ray-Ban to release a line called Stories.

The company has worked with Ray-Ban to create its first commercially available smart glasses, which are similar in concept to the Google Glass product or the Spectacles released by Snapchat, which are now in their third generation.

The smart glasses are a variation on Ray-Ban’s classic Wayfarers, with a pair of cameras to take photos and videos, a microphone and speaker to listen to podcasts, and a voice assistant that allows the user to manage tasks hands-free. They also interact directly with Facebook out of the box, with the ability to post photos and videos directly to your social media feed through the Facebook View app.

“Our mission is to help build tools that will help people feel connected any time, anywhere,” said Facebook’s Monisha Perkash, who leads the team at Facebook’s Reality Labs division. “We want to create a sense of social presence, the feeling that you’re right there with another person sharing the same space, regardless of physical distance.”

The smart glasses come with a hefty price tag of $299, although that price doesn’t seem nearly as high when you consider the extra features.

While Facebook is deeply embedded in the design and functionality of the new glasses, they are branded as a Ray-Ban product and marketed by the company through its retail network and on the company’s ecommerce site.

Unlike the Google Glass project, the Stories glasses do not offer any functionality related to Augmented Reality, but Perkash hinted that’s coming.

“As we wait for the technology to be good enough, we’re focused on what we can enable right now,” she said. “We’re delivering the first pair of smart glasses that blend form and function.”

The partnership with Ray-Ban is seen as critical to the success of the Stories project, largely because both the Google Glass project and Snapchat’s Spectacles have failed to catch fire as a consumer good. Even though Spectacles are now in their third design iteration, the product has not sold well, and the company took a $40 million write down on the value of unsold inventory in 2017.

Perkash argues the difference is literally all about style, saying, “Actually, you’ve never seen glasses like these. They look just like standard Wayfarers. They look like fashion objects, like something you actually want to wear on your faces. We believe that this will be the first pair of smart glasses people will truly want to wear.”

The introduction of the Ray-Ban Stories is part of a much wider strategy through which Facebook plans to become an even bigger part of people’s lives. As detailed in The Licensing Letter’s special report Licensing in the Metaverse (available to premium subscribers or as a separate purchase at this link) Facebook also recently launched a virtual reality system called Horizon, which acts as a virtual workspace in a 3-D digital world. Horizon is typically used with another Facebook device, the Oculus headset and remote controls, to allow people to enter and navigate a space that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls “the Metaverse”.

Facebook Launches Metaverse With ‘Horizon Workrooms’

Zuckerberg sees a future where our physical reality intermingles with an equally important digital reality. On the one hand, users of Horizon will be able to attend meetings, conferences, concerts, or even fitness classes in a Metaverse, where many other people work and play as three-dimensional avatars.

At the same time, he sees people augmenting their presence in the physical world with AR smart glasses like the Ray-Ban Stories line. Over time, those glasses will not only take photos and video, but will project additional information and images onto the lenses, similar to the way the popular game Pokemon Go projects its characters onto the screen of a smartphone.

There are many people who remain concerned that Facebook’s ability to track the actions of its users will create serious privacy issues for users of the glasses and the Horizon workspace, and the company is trying hard to mitigate those concerns.

“That’s why we baked privacy directly into the product design and functionality of the full experience, from the start,” the company says. “For example, we have hardware protections like a power switch to turn off the cameras and microphone, as well as [a] capture LED hardwired to the camera that shines a white light when you’re taking photos or videos to notify people nearby.” 


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