Facebook Throws Its Hat In The Ring For AR Wearables, Unveiling $299 Smart Glasses
On September 9th, Facebook announced their partnership with Ray-Ban to develop affordable smart glasses, which come in a range of fashionable styles that pair with the new Facebook View app, allowing users can share their point of view, stories, and memories.
In their tech announcement, Facebook explains that pairing an iOS or Android to the Facebook View app makes it easy to import, edit, and share content captured on the smart glasses to apps on the smartphone.
Stealing The AR Thunder
So how does Ray-Ban Stories from Facebook compare to Spectacles from Snapchat, which are very similar? The concept of smart glasses is still relatively young, but other companies have been exploring the technology. Amazon has the Echo Frames, and Apple is experimenting with the market as well, but they are nowhere near the same competitive edge.
Facebook and Snapchat stand out as two of the most notable smart glasses contributors. Snapchat’s advantage comes with the fact that they have been dabbling with smart glasses since 2016, when it launched the original Spectacles. They have a little more experience with consumer feedback and have been improving their product. At the same time, there’s been a lot of anticipation around Facebook’s smart glasses, mainly because it has an advantage with their Ray-Ban partnership. The combination of two strong brands is highly compelling to brand-focused consumers.
Ray-Ban Stories also has a great tagline: “It’s time we look up again.” The implication of everyone looking down at their phones and missing the world is a powerful one. That slogan was a smart move.
Getting Philosophical: The Judgment Of Thamus
Although Facebook can improve upon what Google tried to do in 2014 (with a bit more style), they are at the forefront of considerable criticism regarding privacy based on current issues. Other platforms, like Snapchat, have provided similar products with interesting AR features, so Facebook isn’t the only one trying to make these products relevant (and with surprisingly less controversy).
Every time there is a new invention, one is reminded of the story about Thamus, the king of the gods in Egyptian mythology. Theuth, the god of invention, brings forth his creations for Thamus to judge them, and Thamus decides on each of their merits (or lack thereof). Thamus tells Theuth that he cannot judge his own inventions because he is too close to them, and it takes an objective witness to make that decision. He then explains the dangers of technology (in this case, it was the writing tool) and why inventors cannot predict all its potentially negative influences. Just because a technology can exist doesn’t mean it should.
With Ray-Ban Stories, many of the same concerns are present, mainly based on privacy implications. People have recorded others in public for decades. Still, it’s gotten more difficult for the average person to detect, and Facebook’s new glasses will make it even harder since they resemble and carry the Ray-Ban style and name.
The glasses include a face-mounted camera that can take pictures and short videos with a verbal cue. As exciting as this technology may seem, there are valid concerns from critics.
Facebook has thought of this concern by explaining that they will not use the data created by the glasses for its more traditional aggregation and targeting activities. The digital images and audio captured by the glasses are stored on the device rather than automatically uploaded to Facebook. Of course, once uploaded to Facebook View or other apps, it becomes part of the systems that collect data.
As the technology becomes more popular, privacy will continue to be a concern and lingering issue moving forward.
Overall, it is essential to recognize how Facebook plays a role in how AR is taking new chances with social media and how brands and influencers can use it. Furthermore, it is vital to recognize how they are faring among other similar platforms and their products.
What gives Facebook an advantage is their enormous influence in social media and their collaboration with Ray-Ban, which provides a combination of two brand giants in a way that other platforms have not provided. As the technology and trends increase, it will be interesting to see how others imitate Facebook, even if they weren’t initially leading the way.
Facebook’s new Ray-Ban Stories glasses appear to have overcome Google’s earlier problems: the devices are priced at about one-fifth of Google Glass and look like the Ray-Bans Tom Cruise made famous in the movies. Back then, on the elevator, we knew something atypical was afoot because of the geeky appearance of Google Glass.
Without a doubt, the Facebook Ray-Ban technology is impressive: two 5-megapixel cameras, three microphones, four gigabytes of storage, and contained not in a bulky or Star Trek-looking device, but a pair of undistinguishable Ray-Bans. Simply tap the shades, and the audio or video is captured. The addition of a small LED on the Ray-Ban Stories frame is supposed to let people know they’re being recorded.
Will this be enough to breed consumer confidence? Only time will tell. But Facebook has officially thrown its hat in the ring for AR wearables, and we are totally here for it.