17. October 2021

Facebook’s glasses aren’t as scary as you think, at least not yet

Last week Facebook launched Ray-Ban Stories; a $449 pair of sunglasses with two built-in cameras, a microphone array, speakers and a voice assistant.

Like most people, when I first heard about a pair of Facebook glasses with cameras, I assumed they’d be livestreaming devices that would be a nightmare for privacy. But, curiously, they don’t go anywhere near that far. Instead they are much less useful, while also being less threatening, at least in this first-generation version.

Ray-Bans Stories let you take pictures while keeping your phone in your pocket.

Ray-Bans Stories let you take pictures while keeping your phone in your pocket.

Ray-Ban Stories can take photos and 30-second videos, controlled by both physical buttons and a voice assistant. To access your pics, you need to download the new Facebook View app and upload the photos and videos to that. From there, you can decide to leave them in your phone’s gallery, or upload them to the app of your choice (not just Facebook’s).

Having spent a few days with them, it’s easy to imagine that influencers and those who document their lives will love these glasses. They’re easy to use, look great (if you enjoy the Ray-Ban style) and the photos turn out surprisingly decent. You can’t control focus or see the images until you download them to your phone later, meaning less time fiddling with your phone and more time enjoying the moment.

I love them for cycling, because the speakers allow you to listen to music or directions without blocking out the world around you, and you can take photos and videos without taking your hands off the handlebars.

Because they’re available from OPSM as well as Sunglasses Hut, it’s simple to get your own prescription lenses added, which removes another barrier for those of us without 20/20 vision.


Being a Facebook product, the most obvious questions are all around privacy, and it’s clear the developers were aware of that.

The glasses make a noise and have a hardwired LED that flashes whenever a photo is taken and stays on while the glasses are recording, and you do have to press the button or say a voice command to use them, so it’s arguable whether they’re sneakier than taking photos on your phone. The cameras can be very hard to see though, which is concerning. At least when you have your phone out people are aware there’s a camera in their midst.

As for the user’s privacy, Facebook says the images are encrypted and their contents are not used for personalised ads. The company does collect some data — like the number of photos you take or how long your videos are — but you can apparently turn that off.

All up these are cute glasses that let people capture the moment without losing it to smartphones, and far from the privacy invaders I’d assumed they were. Whether they contribute to a normalisation of smart facewear, allowing for far less benign products in the future, remains to be seen.

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