Facebook and Ray-Ban Team Up on Next-Gen Smart Glasses

Facebook and Luxottica Group’s luxury sunglass manufacturer Ray-Ban unveiled new smart glasses that enable the user to record via cameras hidden in the frame. The Ray-Ban glasses — priced at $299 — are based on the classic Wayfarer model, with the addition of a very small recording light, two 5-megapixel cameras, three microphones and four gigabytes of storage. The glasses, which will come in 20 style combinations and either clear or prescription lenses, are powered by Facebook technology. Both Facebook and Ray-Ban parent Luxottica stated that, “privacy is built into the product.”

The Wall Street Journal notes, however, that Facebook “has a long history of privacy issues.” The WSJ reviewer said that there’s a gap between what the “tech is intended for and how it can be used.” The recording stops after 30 seconds and “half a minute goes very quickly.”

The glasses respond to two verbal commands: “Hey Facebook, start a video” or “take a photo.” A still photo, which is activated by a long press, “gathers depth information so when you edit the photo in the Facebook View companion app, you can pan around and see some slight movement.” The resulting image is “good enough for sharing to your Facebook or Instagram Stories.”

Videos and stills taken with the glasses are saved on the device and, “then, when they are paired via Bluetooth with your iPhone or Android phone, you can sync the media in the Facebook View app, which requires you to sign in with your Facebook account.” The user can also share videos and photos by exporting them to Facebook, Instagram or “really any social-media app.”

Facebook vice president of augmented reality Alex Himel said that “the company walled off the Facebook View app for privacy” and that there is no advertising but “once photos leave the app, they are subject to other apps’ policies.”

The New York Times reports that, “the new glasses … face hurdles apart from Silicon Valley’s stop-start history with smart glasses,” more specifically, privacy issues. It notes that, “Facebook has long been under scrutiny for how it treats people’s personal data … [and] using the glasses to surreptitiously film people is bound to cause concerns, not to mention what Facebook might do with the videos that people collect.”

At the Future of Privacy Forum, a non-profit think tank partially funded by Facebook, policy counsel Jeremy Greenberg said that, “Facebook is not naïve to the fact that other smart glasses have failed in the past … [adding that] the public’s expectations of privacy have changed since the days of previous smart glasses releases.”

NYT adds that, “for Mark Zuckerberg … the ultimate goal is to eventually release a pair of smart glasses that fully augment reality …yet another step on the road to the metaverse.”