I’ve attempted Facebook and Ray-Ban camera glasses and felt like James Bond

Ray-Ban Stories are Facebook’s first attempt at laying the groundwork for its metaverse, giving us the ability to record our memories easily and with a tap.

The so-called ‘metaverse’ aims to mix the real and virtual worlds, and for this, new types of devices will be necessary, capable of ‘digitizing’ what we see and touch in reality. It sounds ambitious, but the company formerly known as Facebook thinks it’s its future.

The Ray-Ban Stories are a first step in that direction. They are conventional sunglasses, except there is nothing conventional about them. Thanks to two cameras and integrated circuitry in the mount, they are capable of recording video and taking photos in any situation that comes to mind. And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.

film technology
Ray-Ban Stories are proof of how far technology has come. In a tiny format, we have a lot of innovations that until not long ago were impossible . Beware, these are not “smart” glasses nor are they compatible with “augmented reality”; for that, we will still have to wait a bit, at least in affordable prices for the average user. The Ray-Ban Stories are committed to a simpler concept, they are glasses with cameras, which can also serve as a music player or personal assistant.

Photography and video have taken priority when designing the glasses, as evidenced by the inclusion of two 5 MP sensors , one on each side; this allows you to record videos at 1184 x 1184 resolution at 30 frames per second, or take photos at 2592 x 1944 resolution. It’s not much, at least compared to what any modern smartphone is capable of, but Facebook’s implementation is enough good enough to get amazing results.

In particular, I did not expect to find photographs of such high quality ; They can be passed off as photos taken with a mobile perfectly, until you enlarge them and realize the low resolution. Its performance improves the more natural light there is, yes, although that is not a problem considering that we will probably use them more outdoors (unless you are one of those who wears sunglasses indoors). Only when we enlarge the photo do we realize flaws, such as the famous ‘grain’ in the dark areas; In addition, it is very noticeable that the algorithms give a “painted” effect in some parts where sufficient resolution has not been achieved. Up close, it’s clear that details have been lost, but they’re perfect for capturing snapshots in the moment.

I can say more or less the same about video recording, which does not reach the level that can be achieved on a mobile phone, but which is surprising given the format. The big difference compared to recording with a mobile, of course, is that we have our hands free and we can take videos in “first person” . What we record is what we are seeing, and that opens the door to completely different videos than what we are used to.

The videos are really noticeable as if we were seeing them ourselves, because of the location of the cameras, which are very close to the eyes; It’s a strange feeling but with a lot of potential for all kinds of content . It occurs to me that it is possible to use it to create tutorials, in which my hands are seen, or simply to record my experience during my vacations. It is evident that it is designed for the new style of social network, since the videos have a maximum duration of 60 seconds.

The only thing I miss about video recording is some optical stabilization, as videos can ‘shake’ too much; Perhaps it is too much to ask, given the format and the fact that this type of technology is only available in high-end mobiles or dedicated cameras such as GoPro. If we move too much while recording, we will notice that the video becomes blurry and difficult to see; still, the focus is very good and captures just what we want to record. If we take into account our movements, we should have no problem recording very striking videos.

It’s no coincidence that video recording takes precedence in Ray-Ban Stories; It is clear that Facebook wants to promote its alternative services to TikTok, with short-form videos. The evidence is that to record a video we only have to press a button , located on the right on the mount, while to take a photo we have to keep it pressed, something that is perhaps not the most intuitive thing in the world.

The videos and photos that we take are stored in the internal memory of the glasses, which is capable of storing up to 30 videos of 30 seconds, or up to 500 photos.

Also for music and calls
But Ray-Ban Stories aren’t just for taking videos or photos. They can also fulfill the function of smart headphones, thanks to the inclusion of two small speakers , located approximately at the height of the ears, in addition to three different microphones. As the glasses connect via Bluetooth 5.0 to our mobile, they are capable of playing music or we can even make calls with them.

An important detail to keep in mind is that the speakers do not have beamforming technology (something that the microphones do), so anyone who is close will be able to hear what we are listening to; at the highest volume levels it can even be annoying for other people, for example, if we are on the train. In addition, the sound quality is not very good, and I would only recommend it if you really do not want to wear headphones.

Even so, it is a very curious addition, which allows us to make calls without having to take our mobile out of our pocket, and the experience with music has reminded me of the Oculus Quest, virtual reality glasses. Media controls are separate from camera controls, with a dedicated touch area that has worked well in my tests for controlling music and answering calls.

In addition, these glasses are compatible with voice commands. Unfortunately, at the moment this function is not available in Spanish, so we will have to speak in English, French, or Italian, which are the languages ​​supported right now; the last two were added with a recent update, so there is hope that the next language included will be Spanish. With these commands we can give orders to the Facebook assistant , such as capturing photos and videos, but also sending messages through Messenger and controlling the playback of content. The assistant will also indicate the battery levels of the glasses and other information, and sound effects will indicate that a photo has been taken.

Not all communication is done through sounds; when we put on the glasses, on the right next to the lens we will see a notification light , which will notify us if the glasses have been turned on, if they are recording and if we have received a notification on the mobile.

Despite the small size of the internal components, the internal battery lasts longer than I expected, about six hours. I did not like the charging case so much, which also serves to protect the glasses, since it is very large and impossible to carry in your pocket, but at least it is of quality.

They are still Ray-Bans
Don’t let all these features fool you: these are still Ray-Ban glasses. That’s where the real technological breakthrough lies, that despite everything, Facebook has managed to pack so much technology into a format virtually indistinguishable from conventional sunglasses.

No sacrifices have been made in terms of design, and this is a Ray-Ban like any other . All the technology is hidden in the frame, which although it is true that it is somewhat thicker than usual, it is a style that can be perfectly attributed to a stylistic decision. If someone who is not up to date sees you wearing these glasses, they will simply assume that you have regular Ray-Bans.

To highlight this commitment to normality, the Ray-Ban Stories can be configured like other glasses from the manufacturer. We have a wide variety of lens styles, colors, and options, including polarized, gradient, and even prescription lenses. The most striking are those that react to sunlight, with the crystal clearing when the light goes down, allowing us to use them at night without problems.

The only indicator that you have something special on your head are the two cameras, located in the corner of each lens; but even that can go perfectly unnoticed, since from a distance they look like simple decorative additions, like those with many glasses.

Privacy: the good
That Ray-Ban Stories are like normal glasses is the highest praise and, at the same time, the highest criticism I can make of this product. Yes, now comes the moment that the reader has probably been waiting for since the beginning of the article, the moment in which we talk about the big problem with this device: privacy.

In conversations and virtual events with Facebook, the impression I have had is that the company knows that it has a time bomb on its hands , and that if it does not make the right decisions, the explosion can seriously affect its future. Let us remember that this is only the first of several products aimed at improving our day to day life, and that in the future augmented reality glasses with even more technology than these will arrive.

Perhaps for this reason, Facebook has sent a clear message: it is willing to learn, to change its approach and to listen to users and authorities. Starting with the good, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that these glasses give us complete control over our photos and videos . As I have mentioned, the content is first stored within the device itself, from where it does not leave until we decide so.

With the official app for iOS and Android, we can obtain the photos and videos and save them on our mobile; but even then, at no time will they be uploaded to the Internet , and we will always keep them in memory. Only if we decide to share the photos on Facebook or any other social network (we can use any app installed on the mobile, and yes, TikTok too), then they will leave the device to the cloud.

We also do not have the option to broadcast live with the glasses, nor can we only use the microphone to record conversations; furthermore, the 60-second video limitation will greatly limit possible negative or criminal uses.

For Facebook, the most beneficial thing would have been to automatically upload the photos to our social network account, but that would have opened the door to possible privacy abuses, so I am very happy to see that priority has been given to user control of their data , which are also encrypted.

We are also given control over the Facebook assistant, which we can disable at any time. Ultimately, these glasses won’t do anything if we don’t want them to , and that’s already much more than we can say for modern smartphones and smart products.

Privacy: the bad
All of that is good, but it may not be enough. Although Facebook claims that it is open to learning, the reality is that it has not learned anything from similar projects that have been underway for years. For example, these Ray-Ban Stories make some of the same mistakes as Google Glass , which was released 9 years ago. The Glass were augmented reality glasses, also with an integrated camera that also allowed you to take photos and videos; He was the protagonist of several privacy scandals, and started a global conversation about the presence of cameras in public life.

9 years later, I repeat, Ray-Ban Stories have exactly the same privacy protection as Google Glass: a front light that turns on when we’re recording a video or taking a photo. It’s not exactly flashy, and unless they’re watching us right when we’re shooting, it’s unlikely anyone will notice.

In fact, I think that Ray-Ban Stories are worse than Google Glass in terms of privacy for third parties, because they look like normal glasses . When I walk down the street with my glasses on, nobody has stopped to look at me (as has happened to me with other more striking technological products ); They are conventional glasses to the naked eye, while Google Glass had a futuristic and striking design. Perhaps that is why they raised so much controversy, and there are voices that believe that Google failed precisely because it drew so much attention ; It is possible that, by presenting something similar but in a familiar format, Facebook wants to avoid that type of controversy. But what it will not prevent is abuse, such as using the glasses to record people without their consent.

Facebook’s solution to possible abuse is… a message that appears the first time you open the app. Yes, the company promises to invest a lot in ‘educating’ users and that it will expel those who misuse the glasses, but honestly, if someone intends to use these glasses for malicious or illegal purposes, losing your Facebook account will be the least of your worries. .

What more could Facebook have done? The truth is that I do not know. But I find it worrying that, after so many years of development, the only answer I’ve gotten is to trust the majority of people to behave properly.

Ahead of their time, or a curiosity of this era?
Personally, I have felt like I was a “famous secret spy” when wearing Ray-Ban Stories on the street. It was as if I was hiding an advanced piece of technology from the public eye, as if I had stopped by Q’s lab to pick up my Aston Martin with missiles, my laser watch and my camera glasses. It also reminded me of Mission: Impossible , where camera glasses turn out to play a major role in the plot.

The potential of Ray-Ban Stories is tremendous , in every way. I see them as ideal for content creation, or simply to share special moments with family or friends. I anticipate that they will be used very creatively, and I look forward to seeing what the new generations will be able to create. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not afraid of them being misused. I wonder how he would react if he saw someone wearing these glasses and made the gesture to start recording.

That may be the future that awaits us, and it doesn’t have to be bad. We may have to get used to having cameras around us; There are already mobiles that can even cover their camera under the screen, so it is a matter of time before they are implemented in even more advanced ways.

One thing that is clear to me is that few products have made me think as much as the Ray-Ban Stories, and they may just be the most surprising product of 2022.

The Ray-Ban Stories are now available in Ray-Ban stores, with a starting price of 329 euros.

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