Smart glasses make Google dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.

SAN FRANCISCO – Last Saturday, after a three mile hike through the Presidio, I found myself among a crowd of tourists gazing at the Gold...


SAN FRANCISCO – Last Saturday, after a three mile hike through the Presidio, I found myself among a crowd of tourists gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge. As the crowd took pictures of the monument, I decided to participate.

But instead of reaching for my iPhone in my pocket, I patted the side of my Ray-Ban sunglasses until I heard a shutter click. Later, I uploaded the photos my sunglasses had just taken to my phone.

The process was instantaneous, simple, discreet – and it was powered by Facebook, which has partnered with Ray-Ban. Their new line of glasses, called Ray-Ban Stories and unveiled Thursday, can take photos, record videos, answer phone calls and stream music and podcasts.

All of this made me feel like I was being drawn into an inevitable future imagined by people much more tech savvy than me, a future in which the seams between the real world and the technology that supports it had all but disappeared.

For years, Silicon Valley has pursued a vision similar to that of a William Gibson novel, where sensors and cameras are integrated into the everyday life and clothing of billions of people. Yet, tech companies that pursued these ideas often failed to do so, as people avoided laptops, especially on their face.

Remember Google Glass, the smart glasses that Google co-founder Sergey Brin introduced in jump out of a plane? This project collapsed, with bars in San Francisco at one point with the exception of spectacle wearers – also called pejoratively “Glassholes” – upon entry. Later came Snap’s glasses, smart glasses more focused on fashion and novelty of recording 10 second video clips. This product, too, never really broke through.

Today, Facebook aims to usher in an era where people become more comfortable sharing their lives digitally, starting with what’s in front of their faces.

“We asked ourselves how do we create a product that helps people really be in the moment they are? Andrew Bosworth, director of Facebook Reality Labs, said in an interview. “Isn’t that better than having to pull out your phone and hold it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?” “

Mr Bosworth dismissed claims that Facebook was picking up where others left off. “This product has never been tried because we have never had a design like this before,” he said, adding that Facebook and Ray-Ban focused more on eyewear fashion than on fashion. technology inside the frames.

“Eyewear is a very specific category that changes your appearance,” said Rocco Basilico, director of clothing at Luxottica, who owns Ray-Ban and wants to expand into the wearable market. “We started this product from the design and refused to compromise on this design. “

Let’s be realistic for a second. The new glasses, which start at $ 299 and come in more than 20 styles, face hurdles outside of Silicon Valley history with smart glasses. Facebook has long been under scrutiny for how it processes personal data of individuals. Using the glasses to surreptitiously film people is likely to cause concern, not to mention what Facebook might be doing with the videos people are collecting.

I asked if Facebook’s branding baggage was why its name was not in the title of the glasses. The company said this was not the case.

“Facebook is not naive that other smart glasses have failed in the past,” said Jeremy Greenberg, policy adviser to the Future of Privacy Forum, a non-profit privacy organization funded in part by Facebook. But, he added, “public expectations for privacy have changed since the days of previous versions of smart glasses.”

With all of that in mind, I tried the Ray-Ban News from Facebook for a few days over the past week.

Upon close inspection, I found that the frames house two cameras, two microphone speakers, three microphones, and a Snapdragon computer processor chip. They also come with a charging case that plugs into any computer via a USB-C cable. With a full charge, the glasses can be used for about six hours.

Shows require a Facebook account. They are also linked to a smartphone application, Facebook View. After recording videos (the glasses can record up to 35 30-second videos or take 500 photos), users can upload their content wirelessly to the app, where the photos are encrypted. From Facebook View, users can share content on their social networks or messaging apps, as well as save photos directly to their phone’s device storage outside of the Facebook app.

To avoid privacy concerns, a small indicator light illuminates when the glasses are recording, letting people know they’re being photographed or filmed. When you set up the Facebook View app, it also displays prompts asking users to “respect others around you” and asking them if they “feel appropriate” to take a photo or video in the moment. The app even invites people to “do a little demo” to show others that they are being recorded.

However, users may have other hesitations, like me. The glasses have an audio activation feature, called Facebook Assistant, which can be activated to take hands-free photos and videos by saying, “Hey, Facebook.”

For me, it was a sticking point. What do people around me think when they hear me say, “Hey, Facebook, take a picture”? Can I still look cool doing this? Can anyone?

Additionally, to help Facebook improve the Assistant, users are asked to allow the device to store transcripts of their voice interactions, which will then be examined by a mix of human algorithms and machine learning. I didn’t like it and imagine others won’t be overly enthusiastic either, no matter how benign their voice interactions may be.

(You can stop using the Assistant, and users can view and delete their transcripts if they choose.)

Many of these privacy concerns are irrelevant to technologists who view wearable devices as inexorable for society. For Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, the ultimate goal is to eventually release a pair of smart glasses that increase reality, which puts a kind of virtual overlay on the world in front of people.

This idea is yet another step on the road to metaverse, Mr. Zuckerberg’s term to describe how parts of the virtual and real world will eventually merge and share different parts of each other. Maybe one day I could use a pair of Facebook AR glasses to order myself a digital hat, which other people wearing AR glasses could see.

For a few moments during my hike last Saturday, I was able to guess this vision of the future that so excites Facebook executives.

Walking down the Presidio’s many trails gave me dazzling views, which I was able to film using only my voice while still having one hand holding my dog’s leash and the other holding my backpack. Capturing the cityscape was as easy as issuing a voice command while my phone was in my pocket.

Best of all, I looked like a normal guy wearing sunglasses, not someone carrying a wacky computer.

An added bonus was that no one (except my dog) could hear me say “Hey, Facebook” while I was alone on the trails. But in the city surrounded by people, I admit that I could stick to tapping on the side of my frames to take pictures.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Smart glasses make Google dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.
Smart glasses make Google dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.
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