After years of murmurs, Facebook was all set to formally announce its first pair of “smart” sunglasses today. Ray-Ban, Facebook’s partner on this project, even put up a splashy site teasing the announcement two days ago. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even posted video clips supposedly taken with the device. And then the glasses leaked.
The images were posted on Twitter by prolific leaker Evan Blass. And they look a helluva lot like Snap’s Spectacles. Not the most recent one, but the earlier versions that flopped hard a few years ago. From the images, it looks like the glasses are called Ray-Ban Stories, and come in three styles dubbed Round, Wayfarer, and Meteor. Like Snap’s Spectacles, there’s a camera on each hinge and at a glance, they look like a regular pair of Ray-Bans. Otherwise, there are chunky arms — which likely house the battery — and a set of button controls on the right. Other than that, it’s hard to tell if these things will do anything else besides record video.
— Ev (@evleaks) September 9, 2021
None of this should come as a surprise. We’ve known that these glasses were coming since 2019. We also knew this pair wouldn’t have the advanced AR features you’d associate with the term “smart glasses.” The company blatantly told the Verge that the glasses wouldn’t have an AR display last year. In a recent earnings call, Zuckerberg also said the glasses would have Ray-Ban’s “iconic form factor” and would “let you do some pretty neat things.” He also commented that he was looking forward to “full augmented reality glasses in the future.” The main question is whether those “pretty neat things” include anything other than taking short videos.
Facebook hasn’t been shy about its AR and VR ambitions. Facebook Reality Labs Research, the division that works on these projects, has published several deep dives into how the company envisions how AR will shape our technological future. That includes everything from “smart audio” and facial recognition, to soft wristbands to control AR with your mind. Based on the images, however, it’s probably safe to say that these glasses won’t be that much different from the smart glasses we’ve already seen.
The Echo Frames, Bose Frames, and Razer Anzu are all similar glasses — though they lack the ability to record video. They function more like headphones in that they let you take calls, listen to music, and use your phone’s digital assistant. It’s possible the Ray-Ban Stories will also do these things, though we’ll have to wait for the official details to know for sure.
Another question is how comfortable people will feel about wearing sunglasses made by Facebook with cameras built-in. The Portal gave people the heebie-jeebies. Back in 2014, a woman in San Francisco was also assaulted for wearing Google Glass at a bar. A big reason why that happened? People at the bar were reportedly upset at the possibility of being recorded. Combine those two things, and it’s easy to see why Facebook branding is largely absent from the glasses themselves.
We’ll have to see how the Ray-Ban Stories do. So far people haven’t seemed particularly keen on this type of smart glasses, and technically, we’ve been here before with the Snap Spectacles. But who knows? Maybe Facebook’s figured something out.