Facebook recently unveiled its first wearable device: Ray-Ban Stories, smart sunglasses with built-in cameras, microphones and speakers. If that sounds familiar to you, it could be because the glasses are quite similar to what Snapchat has been doing for the last five years with Spectacles. Even the name, Ray-Ban stories, feels like a big subtweet on Snap. But despite its inception, Spectacles has yet to be a big hit for the company. Given the $ 300 price tag and Facebook name on the box, Ray-Ban Stories can also prove to be a tough sale.
Both Spectacles and Ray-Ban Stories represent something much bigger for the social networks that made them. Snapchat and Facebook are hoping to define the future of augmented reality, and bet the camera sunglasses will help them get there.
But look closely and companies have had very different approaches. While Ray-Ban Stories look pretty close to ordinary Wayfarers, the Spectacles never looked like a typical pair of sunglasses. Snapchat was also more ambitious in integrating its augmented reality effects into glasses. And the company has recently started experimenting with a new set of specifications that are capable of real AR, even though they are not for sale.
Non-AR “smart glasses” are still a niche product, but Ray-Ban Stories may be one of the best iterations to date. The frames make it easy to take first-person photos and videos, and the built-in speakers sound surprisingly good. Most importantly, they look more like designer sunglasses than part of the technology. But Facebook’s reputation is hard to ignore, especially if you’re wearing a camera he designed on your real face.
But if you’re excited about the future of augmented reality and what might one day be possible, Ray-Ban Stories and Spectacles offer an intriguing look at how the two largest social media platforms think about it.
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