Facebook introduces smart glasses that take videos, calls

By Prasid Banerjee
Snapchat announced a new pair of smart glasses in partnership with Ray Ban. Photo: Reuters

Facebook Inc. has start selling smart glasses that can take calls, capture videos, play music, and even respond to voice commands. The wayfarers are made in partnership with the Ray-Ban brand of Essilor Luxottica.

Christened ‘Ray-Ban Stories’, the smart glasses are priced at $299 upwards and available in 20 style combinations. They are currently available for purchase online and in select retail stores in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, and the UK. Facebook has not announced India plans for the smart glasses.

The glasses have two 5 MP cameras on either side, which can be used to take photos. They also have microphones for taking calls and listening to podcasts, music etc. Gesture controls will help navigate through these functions, while hard-wired LED lights are fitted to inform others when the camera is active.

Ray-Ban Stories have three beamforming microphones that use noise-suppression algorithms, similar to what’s seen on true wireless earbuds today. Beamforming microphones use a digital signal processor (DSP) to better understand where audio is coming from and are typically used to cut out environmental noise in consumer devices.

“Achieving high-quality audio was not a foregone conclusion. We used a bass reflex system, and there were early challenges in getting the speaker porting to fit into the glasses constraint. The answer came with combining great hardware with great software on top of it— and a bit of persistence," the company said in a blog post on Friday.

To use the smart glasses, users will have to download the Facebook View app and will require a Facebook account as well. The app will allow users to import images from the Ray-Ban Stories to Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok, Snapchat, and other apps. Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer/Wayfarer Large, Round, and Metro designs will be used for these smart glasses, and they will be offered in five colours. Further, the social media giant has also built its own voice assistant for the glasses. A physical button allows users to trigger the assistant and use commands like, “Hey Facebook, take a video" for hands-free control.

Facebook announced the partnership with Ray-Ban just over a year ago and registered a patent with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) later. However, while earlier reports speculated that the smart glasses would have augmented reality (AR) features, the Ray-Ban Stories only have cameras for regular photo capture.

Facebook said in its blog that it consulted a host of advocacy groups on the privacy aspect of these glasses to avoid privacy violation issues. In addition, while the privacy policy for the glasses tells users that the company will be collecting data on how users use the Ray-Ban Stories, it claims to not analyze this data to target advertisements at users.

To be sure, Facebook isn’t the only firm trying to bring smart glasses to the mainstream. Tech giant Google started working on the Google Glass back in 2013, but converted the device into an enterprise device. Facebook’s chief competitor for the glasses is Snapchat, which has been selling augmented reality glasses for a few years now.

Snapchat introduced the fourth generation of its AR-capable Snapchat Spectacles in May this year. While Facebook’s smart glasses won’t be coming to the Indian market for the moment, Snapchat has launched the third generation of its Spectacles in India while audio giant Bose began selling a device called Frames in 2019. Jaipal Singh, research manager at International Data Corporation, said devices we have seen so far are “first-generation devices" and though smart eyewear is important, this is just the beginning.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.