The glasses play music and are used to answer calls hands-free.
“Is there a light in your glasses?”, “Are those cameras there?”, “Do they serve to spy?”. These are some of the questions that Ray-Ban Stories generate among those who have never heard of them and seen them for the first time. These smart glasses, launched by Meta (the parent company of Facebook) and Ray-Ban, are used to take photos, record videos, answer calls, and even play music. Beyond the initial surprise effect, they have also raised some privacy concerns.
We tested the Ray-Ban Stories for a few days, which are quite reminiscent of the Snapchat Spectacles and have just gone on sale in Spain for 329 euros. At the moment, they are available in three models and several colors. At first glance, they look like traditional glasses. Although they are equipped with multiple sensors, they are comfortable and quite discreet. It is striking that, while the RayBan logo is engraved on one of the lenses as well as on the temples and the case of the glasses, there is no trace of Meta having participated in their development.
Setting up Ray-Ban Stories only takes a few minutes and is quite easy. All you have to do is download the Facebook View application on your mobile, available both in the Play Store and in the App Store, and follow the instructions that appear on the screen. Of course, to do so, it is essential to have a Facebook account. In this process, the user can choose what language they want the Facebook assistant to speak in —for the moment you can only choose between English from the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia— and how they want their voice to be —warm, objective, firm, monotonous, musical, happy or stable—.
One of the main attractions of these glasses is that they have two five-megapixel cameras on the sides of the front. If one does not pay close attention, these sensors can go unnoticed as if they were merely decorative accessories. Taking photos and recording videos with them on is very easy. Simply press a physical button on the top of the right temple. It is also possible to do it without using your hands, by asking the Facebook assistant. Although until now the recordings have been limited to a maximum of 30 seconds, Meta ensures that videos of up to one minute can be made.
When capturing a photo or video, a small white LED light on the front next to one of the cameras lights up. This is the way its creators have chosen to try to notify other people that they are being recorded. This measure has not been exempt from criticism among those who consider it insufficient. But Facebook believes that it serves to safeguard the privacy of other users. “It’s more than what smartphones do,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
This newspaper has carried out some tests with Ray-Ban Stories to check to what extent people are aware that they are being recorded. Being close to a person, face to face, the LED light does not go unnoticed. But it does when walking in crowded places or not being very close to the subjects in front of the cameras. Keep in mind that many people have not even heard of this type of glasses, which are also practically indistinguishable from traditional ones.
Meta has announced that in April it will develop a campaign in several countries of the European Union to educate about smart glasses and explain how they work. In addition, it has created a page with tips in English for its owners. “Not everyone loves photo shoots. Stop recording if someone expresses that they would prefer not to be in a photo or video and be careful about taking photos with minors. The technology also recommends showing other people how the LED light works, not manipulating it, not wearing glasses while driving, and turning them off when going to the doctor, a locker room, a public bathroom, or a place of worship.
Footage captured with the lenses can then be downloaded to the Facebook View app. The process to import everything to the mobile via Bluetooth usually works well and only takes a few seconds. The quality of the images and videos is quite good, although it is somewhat far from the results of the most powerful mobiles on the market. All content can be edited within the application and quickly shared on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Image editing is quite limited compared to the most popular photography apps on the market. In addition to allowing cropping, it serves to set brightness, sharpness, saturation, and warmth.
The Ray-Bans that sound
Among the strengths of these glasses is that they can play sound and make calls since they incorporate a speaker system on their pins and three microphones. They can be used to listen to music, podcasts, or, for example, WhatsApp audios. This option is ideal for detractors of in-ear headphones (those that are inserted into the ears) or those who want to listen to music without isolating themselves from the environment. But be careful, if the sound is turned up loud, anyone can hear the content of calls or music.
In general, the audio is of good quality. Although the bass can be improved, the mid and high frequencies sound quite good. The right temple has a touch volume control, which allows you to pause or play the music with a touch. It is also possible to skip the song, with two presses, or go back, with three. To increase or decrease the volume, you can drag your finger along the pin.
As if they were wireless headphones, the glasses are accompanied by a charging case. Ray-Ban claims that the battery lasts up to six hours with moderate use and up to three hours if audio is played continuously and the Facebook assistant is used. In theory, the lenses can capture and sync up to 30 videos or up to 500 photos before running out of battery power. The case provides three additional charges, which serve to fill the glasses to 100% in just over an hour.