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Ray-Ban Stories: Facebook’s smart glasses record the world as you see it

New Ray-Ban branded sunglasses can record video and audio but Facebook says privacy is still a top priority

Facebook has partnered with designer sunglasses manufacturer, Ray-Ban, to produce a pair of “smart glasses” called Stories. Announced yesterday, the glasses feature a pair of forward-facing cameras, plus speakers for audio playback and a microphone array for communicating with a built-in smart assistant.

First things first: these glasses aren’t quite what you’re imagining. While the ultimate goal might be to produce augmented reality glasses akin to the over-ambitious, and ultimately ill-fated, Google Glass, the technology required to “augment” reality with computer-generated imagery in the lenses of a pair of designer shades isn’t there yet, so Facebook and Ray-Ban have settled for what’s available.

That means these Wayfarer-inspired glasses have perfectly normal lenses, available in clear, sun, transition and prescription varieties. Instead, it’s the frame that marks out the Stories glasses as unique.

There are two 5-megapixel cameras built into the front of the glasses, enabling you to capture photos and video from a first-person perspective. Videos are limited to 30-second snippets, however, presumably due to a lack of onboard storage. Anything you capture via the Stories glasses can be uploaded to Facebook’s new View app, where it can be edited and shared to most major social media or messaging platforms. 

Buried in the arms of the Ray-Ban Stories glasses is a pair of speakers. Facebook’s official announcement describes these as “streamlined” and “open-ear”. It’s difficult to say whether they will simply play audio out loud, or whether some form of bone conduction technology is in play here but, either way, it seems likely that audio quality won’t be anything to write home about. Think podcasts, rather than music.

There’s also a three-microphone array embedded in the frame. This allows users to communicate with their smartphone’s smart assistant, record audio alongside those 30-second videos and even, says Facebook, take or make phone calls. 

Privacy is something of a sticking point for Facebook at present and both the social media giant and Ray-Ban say they have taken steps to ensure consumers – and indeed anyone liable to be recorded by the Stories’ cameras – feel reassured.

Aside from the usual data-sharing and general privacy controls – accessible via the View app – the Ray-Ban Stories also have a physical power toggle built into the frame, as well as a red LED light that activates while the cameras are recording. Facebook and Ray-Ban have also provided guidance for buyers that explains how to appropriately and responsibly use the glasses in public.

These high-tech glasses will set you back £299 a pair and are seemingly available to purchase right away, with shipping dates estimated for 15 September at the time of writing. You can find out more, and view the various styles and colours available, via Ray-Ban’s storefront at the link below.

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