Ray-Ban StoriesGET IT
Last year, a pair of heavyweights entered the smart glasses category when Ray-Ban released its Stories frames with Meta (Facebook) technology baked in. The glasses, which come in three styles—we picked the classic Wayfarer sunnies—have a pair of forwarding facing, 5-megapixel cameras built into the frame, along with two speakers, and three mics in the temples. While you can press or swipe to control everything from listening to playlists and taking phone calls to firing up the cameras, the idea is to handle a lot of that using the Facebook Assistant. The good news is, unlike other smart glasses, these look pretty much like a standard-issue pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. The temples are slightly wider to accommodate the battery and speakers, but not noticeably so.
In front, the frames have an LED that shines white letting anyone around you know you’re shooting content, and the lenses, which are maybe 1/3 of the size of those on an iPhone, are tucked into the corners. It’s all very slick. And unlike a lot of other smart glasses, you have plenty of options for frame color and to customize the lenses, from the color, to prescriptions, to clear.
The cameras are surprisingly good, given the 5mp (for context, the iPhone 13’s camera shoots in 12mp). They might not be detailed enough to take a family portrait, but they certainly work well to share content for social media. The videos, which got a software upgrade from 30- to 60-seconds long, look sharp too. We took calls while walking the dog and even though there was wind, with cars zooming by and dogs barking, no one we called asked us to repeat ourselves.
On the hardware front, the only disappointment is the speaker quality—they are so quiet we had to max the volume at every turn. The buttons and touch controls on the right temple, which control the glasses, work well. What you see is what you shoot and it can take some trial and error to get things like cropping and level photos. The cameras take hi-res shots (2592×1944 pixels) and video (1184×1184 pixels at 30 frames-per-second) and the cameras adjust to the light around you, but you have far less control than you do on any smartphone camera.
Given the Meta integration, you’re likely wondering how that all works. You can take photos and shoot videos by pressing the button or by saying “Hey Facebook,” to prompt the Face Assistant to do it for you. It works, but in practice, we did it manually. It feels kind of weird to be out and about shouting “Hey Facebook…” Using the assistant is one way to make it clearer to those around you that you’re recording. You need a Facebook account to use these sunglasses and there is no way around that—unless you want to power the frames down and wear them as an (expensive) pair of Wayfarers.
The corresponding View app is where you can adjust settings for the sunglasses and see your content. Like Amazon’s Alexa, anytime you have the assistant do something for you it records audio that Facebook holds, unless you toggle a privacy setting in the app. While the white LED in front is designed to alert the public that you’re recording it was hardly picked up by anyone when we used it and the glasses do make a shutter sound when you snap photos, but not loud enough for anyone else to hear. Could you use these to record people without them knowing? Probably. But you could also do that with a smartphone now—Though these are far less noticeable as a recording device than you holding up an iPhone. The app has a clean interface where you can see, edit, and share the content the glasses shoot. To get the content to the app, the glasses connect to your phone through a Wi-Fi network, then pretty quickly, load up onto your phone where you can share them, though you can arrange to have the app copy the photos over to your phone’s library automatically.
The glasses worked better than we expected and took decent-quality images. There were a few hiccups getting the frames to automatically synch to our phone’s Bluetooth network, but they were infrequent enough. In the end, we tended to wear these even in instances where we didn’t plan on shooting any content, just because they’re comfortable, look good, and we might need to take a call or listen to a podcast. —Sal Vaglica, Men’s Journal contributor
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