(NEW YORK) — You can now wear Facebook on your face – kind of.
The Ray Ban “Stories” are the result of a collaboration between the famous sunglasses company and social media giant Facebook. The new shades have tiny, forward-facing cameras that can take photos and videos, as well as speakers built into the arms that allow wearers to listen to music, podcasts – and even take phone calls – without the need for headphones.
Facebook isn’t the first to show off smart glasses. Google Glass was met with enthusiasm – and derision – in the early 2010s. Snap, meanwhile, is on it’s fourth generation of Spectacles, which are currently being tested by developers and select Snapchat creators. Engadget Senior Editor Karissa Bell says, while the design of those devices stands out – Facebook is taking a subtler approach.
“What makes these a little different is obviously Facebook partnered with Ray Ban, so they look and feel like Ray Bans, which, you know, are very popular sunglasses. So that’s probably a good thing for Facebook,” says Bell.
What’s more, Google Glass and the latest generation of Snap Spectacles make use of augmented reality technology – projecting information onto the inside of the glasses’ lenses. Ray Ban Stories are limited to snapping pictures or capturing 30-second videos through dual 5-megapixel cameras. Users can review what they’ve recorded through the accompanying smartphone app, “View.” Naturally, the app can also post that content to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Ray Ban Stories start at $299 – but Bell says Facebook has aspirations beyond simply selling units.
“They’re more concerned with trying to get this out there, trying to encourage adoption, get[ting] people excited about this technology and where it’s going more than they are about actually just trying to make money off the hardware itself,” says Bell.
Facebook could have a tough road ahead of it. The familiar Ray Ban design allows the shades to more easily blend in with conventional sunglasses – a potential privacy concern when recording devices are involved.
“Being able to take photos out in public in this kind of new format – it looks like sunglasses, it doesn’t look like a camera to people – I think that just kind of on it’s own raises some privacy issues,” says Bell.
Facebook, for it’s part, has integrated some security features into the Ray Ban Stories, such as a small white light that illuminates when the cameras are activated. Additionally, the company says all photos and videos are encrypted. But the glasses do collect some data on wearers, though only to “make your glasses work and function,” according to a blog post from the company. That data could include users’ Facebook login information, battery status, and WiFi connectivity.
What’s more, the company also continues to face criticism for it’s past breaches of user privacy, most notably the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018.
“There’s a lot about Facebook’s track record that makes you uncomfortable when you hear, ‘hey, Facebook made a pair of camera sunglasses,'” says Bell.
Hear ABC News Radio’s Michelle Franzen report on the Ray Ban Stories:
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