News, Product Reviews

Review: Ray-Ban Stories with Facebook

In collaboration with Ray-Ban, Facebook has made an announcement today about their latest product. The Ray-Ban Stories are a pair of smart glasses with multiple uses. They’re sunglasses with a familiar look and feel. They’re able to play music. You can use them to take calls. And you can also use them to take photos and video, all hands free. We take a look at the Ray-Ban Stories.

What are Ray-Ban Stories?

Weighing less than 50 grams it is hard to look at this pair of sunglasses as any more than just spectacles. In the arms are two small speakers and three microphones. Inside the frames are two 5MP cameras. The Ray-Ban stories are equipped with Bluetooth for a connection to your smartphone for music and phone calls. They also use Wi-Fi to share the photos and videos captured to the Facebook View app. From there, the content can be edited with titles, music and transitions and then shared anywhere, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.

Usage of the Ray-Ban Stories is with multiple methods. A small power switch on the inner arm will turn them on. A touch panel on the right arm will allow you to tap or swipe when managing calls or music with various gestures making different commands. A physical button on the top of the right arm will allow you to short press for video recording or long press for a photo. Feedback is given when this is taking place and an LED indicator light is visible to those around you. The Facebook Assistant is also built in and this allows you to use voice commands to control the Ray-Ban Stories.

“Hey Facebook, take a photo”

The Ray-Ban Stories can capture up to 35 full-length (30 second) videos or over 500 photos. Once they synchronise to the app you can start again. The glasses can be used for up to 6 hours before the battery needs a recharge, which is done from the case. The case can recharge your glasses up to three times before it then needs to be recharged via USB-C.

Given the involvement with Ray-Ban these are not just a gadget, they are still fashionable to wear. The popular Wayfarer frame is available along with Round and Meteor styles. Each style will be offered in shiny black, black matte, shiny blue, shiny olive and shiny brown. Lens types will also be available including G-15 Green, photochromatic G-15 green, dark grey, polar dark blue, brown gradient and clear.

What are they like to use?

We’ve had them for a few days now and love that Facebook worked with a fashion brand to create smart glasses that actually look good. We have the Wayfarer model with us, a pair which we’ve owned in the past (without the smart part) and they’re very similar in weight and sizing. Setting up the Stories was very simple with the Facebook View app guiding you along the way. The setup process also provides instructions on how to use them and things you should be aware of, such as appropriate use.

Image captured using Ray-Ban Stories (Unedited)

They’re very light to wear and comfortable. For listening to music it’s quite surprising how well they sound but perhaps not to the extent of the Bose Frames (glasses with audio/phone capabilities only). The microphones use beam forming technology which makes them smart enough to only listen to your voice, handy when people know that “Hey Facebook” commands exist and you want to be the only one able to do that on your glasses.

Taking a photo and video is really easy and happens without much hesitation. Thinking about what services Facebook offers, it would have been great to see them allow Live video for moments you want to share immediately but this would hinder battery life dramatically. We also imagine that down the track the camera could be used for facial or object recognition, potentially reminding you who you’re talking to and maybe letting you know their birthday is coming up. Using the cameras in a store to recognise a product and hear product reviews would be handy. Language translation on signs, menus and documents could also help too.

We have no doubt Facebook has a backlog of potential uses cases. Let’s get used to the idea of wearing a camera on our head first.

Whenever you take a photo or video the indicator light is illuminated. The indicator light is obvious when you’re indoors but not obvious enough when you’re outdoors with lots of sunlight. There will be privacy concerns around these glasses and for obvious reasons. Like most things, if you’re doing something in public, don’t assume you have privacy. But at the same time, don’t be a creep. From a distance many won’t notice you have cameras in your glasses but will notice as you get closer.

“Hey Facebook, take a photo” – The Mirror Selfie (Unedited)

The quality of the photos and videos captured are better than expected. It’s worth noting that the format of the photos and videos are not 16:9 widescreen format for creating cinematic films. They’re almost square and clearly created for consumption on a smartphone. Taking a photo and not knowing how it looks until it arrives on your phone is a little nostalgic and reminiscent of the days of film, you just have to hope it captured the moment.

The video capture was most impressive. When running or riding bumpy footpaths on a scooter, the video remained smooth and stable, almost like we were holding a gimbal. At speed the audio suffers from wind noise and as a result you can’t use voice commands as your voice just won’t be detected. This meant starting a video recording before you start riding and letting it film the full 30 seconds before it stops automatically.

Our first “montage” from the Ray-Ban Stories can be seen here

Listening to music was acceptable but not matching the experience from in ear headphones like AirPods for example. They certainly are usable though and for most occasions they’re pretty good. Given they don’t sit in the ear, you’ll be able to remain aware of your surroundings, but turn them up too loud and people around you will hear your music too.

For phone calls we were very impressed. The three beam forming microphones worked really well. We spoke to someone wearing the Stories and they sounded better than when they held the phone to their ear. This was unexpected as it isn’t core to the product, but a welcome surprise.

We used them while walking, riding a scooter and playing the park, moments when it is helpful to have your hands free. The Ray-Ban Stories allow you to remain in a moment without fumbling for your smartphone. When you’re playing with your three year old son, you don’t want to bring a smartphone into play time, you want to keep your hands free and remain engaged.

The Ray-Ban Stories allow you to capture the moment you are in it, not after the fact.

Synchronising content captured back to Facebook View is simple and very fast. It was nice to see Facebook playing nice and not restricting where you share the content with any option available that your phone has capabilities of using eg SnapChat, TikTok, Email etc

Placing them back in the case is the only time we felt really nervous with them. They recharge back in the case and you want to ensure they’re sitting properly that they’ll recharge and not be crushed when you shut the lid. Somewhere in these glasses are components that make this all work, you want that to continue.

Is it worth it?

In Australia a normal pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers will start from around $200. The Ray-Ban Stories in the same style will cost $449. Considering the ability to take calls, listen to music and capture content they add more than $249 of value. They’re a compelling purchase at this price and they’re certainly excellent to use. Buyers need to be aware that the product is not water resistant, they’re a big gadget after-all.

There is a risk that public perception of this product will be negative due to privacy issues and many wondering whether you are looking in their direction or recording them. Regardless of this, we think they’re worth the spend if you find yourself in a situation where you need to be in the moment and let the technology handle the rest.