Facebook, in partnership with EssilorLuxottica, Ray-Ban's parent company, is set to launch the first pair of smart sunglasses on Thursday this week. The Ray-Ban Stories, which will be going for $299, will be stocked in all stores selling Ray-Bans, including LensCrafters and Sunglasses Hut stores.
These smart glasses feature two front-facing cameras that capture videos and photos. They also sync with Facebook View, a companion roll app where you can edit and share the capture clips to other apps on your phone. Besides, they also have a physical button for recording. Or, you can just say, “Hey Facebook, take a video” to control them hands-free.
Ray-Ban Stories are also a sleeker version of Snapchat’s Spectacles due to their core ability to take photos and videos. Snapchat’s Spectacles were first launched in 2016 with a lot of hype that quickly fizzled. Also, though Ray-Bans do not have displays in the lens like the latest Spectacles that were unveiled earlier this year, they have speakers on both sides of the frame that can play sound from your phone via Bluetooth. These allow you to answer a call or listen to a podcast without taking out your phone. A touchpad built on the side of the frame also lets you adjust the volume or play and pause what you’re hearing.
In what appears as the multiyear partnership between Facebook and Ray-Ban, Ray-Ban Stories are the most normal-looking smart glasses in the market with an advanced technology that overlays graphics onto the real world. They also have high-quality built-in features and functionality. For instance, they have an easy initial pairing and take a few seconds to sync footage from the glasses back to the View app through a Wi-Fi connection.
The two 5-megapixel cameras can capture over three dozen, 30-second video clips or 500 photos before filing the on-device memory. A light on the inside of the glasses also gives you a range of information: green color indicates fully charged, orange shows battery low, blue shows pairing mode, red for dead battery or overheating, and white for a capture error. There is also a separate front-facing white light next to the right camera that illuminates whenever the glasses are recording.
How the Partnership Was Formed
Facebook and Ray-Ban’s partnership is one of the unique partnerships that Facebook has ever made. This happened over two years ago when Roco Basilico, Luxottica's chief wearable officer, emailed Mark Zuckerberg asking him to meet and discuss the smart glasses' collaboration. Of course, Mark had earlier publicly laid out Facebook’s aspiration to make AR glasses that could be widely adopted as mobile phones.
In his 2017 speech at Facebook’s developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg showed the crowd a mockup of smart glasses that looked like Ray-Bans. At the same time, Roco Basilico was leading Luxottica’s smart glasses efforts and knew the company needed to partner with an equal giant tech company to make them.
The two companies sealed the deal in earlier 2019 when Mark flew to Milan to meet Leonardo Del Vecchio, Luxottica's founder, and chairman. Facebook's hardware executives then toured Luxottica's sprawling research center in northern Italy. This is where most features of the smart glasses (codenamed “Stella”) were decided after a weeklong workshop with top executives from both companies.
It is also vital to note that Ray-Ban Stories are not decidedly Facebook-branded products like the Oculus VR headset or Portal video-calling device. Facebook only supplies the tech and software that powers the glasses, while Ray-Ban oversees the designing process and sells them. And, though both companies have different ideas behind the creation of Ray-Ban Stories, what seems to be a common goal is to build a competitive ground with smart devices that will be the next big thing.
(Written and edited by The Decision Maker team)