Tech Review: Capture video and photos with your glasses

Ray-Ban and Facebook team up to connect your spex wirelessly with your smartphone

Come out of the shade: Ray-Ban Stories are lightweight and normal-looking, so you could easily wear them as regular sunglasses.

Product name: Ray-Ban Stories

Price: €329.0

Where to buy: www.ray-ban.com

Website: www.ray-ban.com

Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 05:17

   

The much-teased (and eventually leaked) Ray-Ban/Facebook collaboration is officially available. Ray-Ban Stories are glasses with built-in cameras, microphones and touch controls, giving you a way to capture photos and video, listen to music or take phone calls without having to use your phone and, in theory anyway, step out of the moment.

If the concept seems familiar, it’s because Snap did a pair of camera-enabled glasses a few years ago called Spectacles. Back then, they were simple sunglasses and filmed footage that could be uploaded to the user’s Snapchat account and shared on their stories; now they are more high fashion in style and film in 3D.

As a brand though, Ray-Ban has heritage. To look at the Ray-Ban Stories, you might find it difficult to distinguish them from a standard pair of sunglasses.

The glasses are remarkably free of Facebook branding, with the name only appearing on the box. But on closer inspection, you’ll spot the dual 5 megapixel camera lenses beside each of the hinges, and the button on the right arm that controls photos and video. Hidden away are the touch panel for controlling music and calls, and the open speakers that deliver audio to the wearer. They come in three styles: Wayfarer, Round and Meteor.

So how do they work? The glasses connect wirelessly to your smartphone to transfer your photos and videos securely to your device via the Facebook View app. From there, you can edit and send where you wish.

Facebook View

When you turn the glasses on first, you’ll need to run through a quick set-up process that involves pairing the glasses with your chosen device. I was up and running in a few minutes, downloading the Facebook View app to run through it.

Then things are very simple. Press and hold the button to take a photo, or press once to take a video. You get a small audio notification when recording video starts and stops.

For everyone else, an LED will activate on the front of the frame, just above the lens to let them know you are recording. The LEDs can be dimmed but not completely disabled, ostensibly to protect privacy. It wouldn’t take much to neuter that measure though; the Snap version had a similar indicator that could be easily disguised with some tape.

The videos you capture are only up to 30 seconds in length. How you view this depends on what you want these glasses for; for short memories, 30 seconds will feel long enough.

It also takes a while to get the hang of shooting video accurately with the positioning of the cameras – I cut out quite a bit of what I was trying to record on the first few tries.

Hands-free controls

I found the Ray-Bans did best in good light; in any sort of low-light scenario, things got a bit murky. Yes, your camera phone will still do the job better. But I found the glasses were useful for capturing videos that would have been missed or ruined by fumbling around for a phone.

The speakers and call controls mean you can also use the Ray-Bans as a handsfree kit for calls, if you really need to. How much you’ll want to discuss in public is debatable; the open speakers mean anyone standing close enough will be able to hear your conversation in a way that they wouldn’t if you were using in-ear buds.

Call quality is good though, on both ends. And with the exception of some background noise coming through occasionally, the audio from the Ray-Ban mics was as good as most ear buds that I’ve used – or so the other party to the call said. That is down to the three-microphone audio array that Ray-Ban has built into the glasses. While the audio quality won’t challenge your high-end headphones for depth and quality, they were fine for listening to podcasts, for example.

To get the footage off the glasses, you need to use the Facebook View app. That means a Facebook account, which could be a deal-breaker, for a couple of reasons.

Not only would it leave users at the mercy of Facebook’s whims on the project’s future, not everyone is keen to embrace Facebook. You can save the videos and photos and share them elsewhere – you aren’t limited to Facebook-owned platforms – but it’s hard to ignore concerns over the company’s clashes with privacy advocates in the past.

Speaking of privacy, the fact that the glasses pass so easily for a pair of normal Ray-Bans brings in an added creep factor. Although the LEDs activate as soon as you start capturing footage, it might not be immediately obvious to people what is going on. The Facebook View app deals with such scenarios with a few suggestions, but that is all they are: suggestions.

The good

If you want a more subtle way to capture videos, these glasses certainly work. They are lightweight and refreshingly normal-looking, so you could easily wear them as regular sunglasses.

The not so good

There is decent battery life, but it could be better. The storage case works as a charger too, giving you extra power when you need it, but charging could be hit or miss at times.

The rest

They aren’t noticeably heavier than a standard pair of glasses, which is important for comfort. You can also have different types of lenses put in, including prescription ones.

The verdict

They look good and have some handy features. But do you like the idea enough to pay over €300 for them?

Ray-ban.com