Facebook lives in your pocket, on the web and, if you’ve purchased the Company Portal video calling device, even in your kitchen. Now, he wants to find a home in your face.
The company has created its first “smart glasses,” with a pair of cameras for taking photos and videos, a microphone and speaker for listening to podcasts, and a voice assistant so you can do the whole process hands-free.
If it all sounds and looks familiar, it’s because the concept bears a strong resemblance to Snapchat’s Spectacles, now in its third generation. It’s not the first time that Facebook has been heavily inspired by the younger company, and even the name of the glasses is sure to add insult to injury: Stories have been named, apparently in homage to the social media format invented by Snapchat. . founder, Evan Spiegel, and adopted with revolutionary effect by, first, Instagram, then countless other sites on the Internet.
There’s one last wrinkle on the pitch: the glasses don’t actually come from Facebook at all. Instead, the company is working with Ray-Ban, on whose classic Wayfarer designs the hardware has been modeled, and the device will be marked as a Ray-Ban product first.
“Our mission is to help create tools that help people feel connected anytime, anywhere,” said Monisha Perkash of Facebook. “We want to create a sense of social presence, the feeling that you are there with another person who shares the same space, regardless of physical distance.”
Perkash leads the product team in the company’s Reality Labs division, which has the ultimate goal of building true “augmented reality” glasses, devices that would deliver on the promise, which Google Glass failed to deliver, to put a digital layer on top of reality. herself.
Ray-Ban stories are not that yet. Instead, Perkash said, “while we wait for the technology to be good enough, we are focused on what we can enable right now. We are delivering the first pair of smart glasses that combine form and function. “
Andrew Bosworth, the Facebook executive who runs Reality Labs, said the glasses were “designed to help people live in the moment and stay connected to the people they are with and the people they wish they were with. [Ray-Ban] has been nothing short of stellar in this partnership and through its commitment to excellence we were able to deliver on both style and content in a way that will redefine expectations for smart glasses.
“We are introducing a whole new way for people to stay connected to the world around them and to be truly present at the most important moments in life, and to look good while doing it.”
Facebook has been able to fit an impressive amount into a frame a few millimeters thicker and five grams heavier than a pair of standard Wayfarers. Each wing of the glasses hides a camera, which combines to capture five megapixel still images and videos of up to 30 seconds with a long or short touch of the single button on the device. So far it’s very similar to the Snap Spectacles, but the Ray-Ban Stories also feature open-ear speakers for listening and a “three-mic audio matrix to provide rich sound and voice transmission for calls and videos.” . Those microphones also allow the glasses to be controlled by voice, for a hands-free experience.
Facebook is aware that the glasses, which are now on sale for £ 299 / $ 299, are a difficult launch from a company with a complicated relationship with user privacy. “That’s why we incorporated privacy directly into the product design and functionality of the full experience, right from the start,” the company says. “For example, we have hardware protections like a power switch to turn off the cameras and microphone, as well as [a] Capture camera-connected LED that emits a white light when you are taking photos or videos to notify nearby people. “
The company’s toughest sell may not be privacy, but the glasses themselves. Snapchat Spectacles are now in their third generation, with improvements each time, but they have failed to capture the imagination of the target market. The company took a payback of $ 40 million on the value of unsold inventory in 2017.
But Perkash says the company is not concerned with the comparison. “Actually, you’ve never seen glasses like these. They look like standard Wayfarers. They look like fashion objects, like something you really want to put on your face.
“We think this will be the first pair of smart glasses that people will really want to wear.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism