Facebook lives in your pocket, on the web, and if you’ve purchased the company’s Portal video calling device, even in your kitchen. Now he wants to find a home in your face.
The company 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 to let you do it all in fashion. hands free.
If this all sounds and sounds familiar, it’s because the concept looks a lot like Snapchat’s Spectacles, now in their third generation. This isn’t the first time Facebook has taken heavy inspiration from the young company, and even the name of the glasses is sure to put salt in the wound: they have been named Stories, apparently in homage to the invented social media format. by Snapchat. founder, Evan Spiegel, and adopted with revolutionary effect by, first, Instagram, then countless other sites on the Internet.
There is one last wrinkle in the pitch: the glasses don’t come from Facebook at all. Instead, the company is working with Ray-Ban, whose classic Wayfarer designs have been modeled, and the device will primarily be a Ray-Ban product.
“Our mission is to help create tools that will help people feel connected anytime, anywhere,” said Facebook’s Monisha Perkash. “We want to create a sense of social presence, the feeling that you are there with another person sharing the same space, regardless of the physical distance. “
Perkash leads the product team in the company’s Reality Labs division, which has the ultimate goal of creating true “augmented reality” glasses – devices that would keep the promise – which Google Glass failed to deliver – to put on. a digital layer on reality itself.
The Ray-Ban Stories are not yet. Instead, Perkash said, “Until the technology is good enough, we are focusing on what we can activate right now. We deliver 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 in touch with who they are and who they are with.” wish to be. [Ray-Ban] has been nothing short of stellar in this partnership and through their commitment to excellence we have been able to deliver both style and substance in a way that will redefine the expectations of smart glasses.
“We’re 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 was able to squeeze an impressive amount into a frame a few millimeters thicker and five grams heavier than a standard pair of Wayfarers. Each wing of the glasses hides a camera, which combines to take five-megapixel stills and videos for up to 30 seconds with a long or short press of the device’s single button. So far so similar to the Snap Shows, but the Ray-Ban Stories also feature open-ear speakers for listening and a ‘three-microphone audio package to deliver rich voice and sound transmission for calls. and videos ”. These microphones also allow you to control the glasses by voice, for a hands-free experience.
Facebook is aware that the glasses, currently on sale for £ 299 / $ 299, are a tough argument from a company with a complicated relationship with user privacy. “That’s why we built privacy directly into product design and full experience functionality from the start,” the company says. “For example, we have hardware protections like a power switch to turn off the cameras and the microphone, as well as [a] Capture an LED wired to the camera that emits white light when taking photos or videos to alert people nearby.
Perhaps the company’s most difficult sale isn’t the privacy, but the glasses themselves. Snapchat’s glasses are now in their third generation, with improvements every time, but they have failed to capture the imagination of the target market. The company took a $ 40 million write-down on the value of unsold inventory in 2017.
But Perkash says the company isn’t worried about the comparison. “In fact, you’ve never seen glasses like these. They look like standard Wayfarers. They look like fashion items, something that you really want to wear on your face.
“We think this will be the first pair of smart glasses that people really want to wear. “