I don't quite know how to feel about the new Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. Especially when they run on AI. We get it, it's the whole handsfree, first-person POV experience ("Hey Meta, share this photo I took with just my literal face"). The convenience is clearly purposed for content creation, livestreaming and all that jazz. Allowing users to preview social media comments in real-time, even audibly, the ambitious eyewear also doubles as a pair of headphones and takes phone calls. Perhaps Meta thinks we aren't glued enough to our phones as it is.
In partnership with EssilorLuxottica, the first generation—called "Ray-Ban Stories" because why bother hiding what they're really for—was launched in September 2021. They came in three styles (wayfarer, round and meteor), one colour (the very exciting black in shiny or matte) and two transitions options (the just as exciting grey and brown).
The second iteration now streamlined and lighter, boasts up to 150 frame and lens design combinations. More importantly, first-hand reviews are actually calling them comfortable. Water resistance clocks in at an IPX4 rating, should you consider skinny dipping.
The biggest change, though, would undoubtedly be replacing the 5MP camera with an ultra-wide 12MP one. Capable of recording 1080p videos from a prior 780p in 60-second stints, the default mode is—surprise, surprise—now portrait rather than landscape. It also went from one microphone, which apparently wasn't much good in strong breeze, to a whopping five, including one on the nose bridge for a true 360 audio capture.
There's a marked difference in the listening experience too, via a 50 percent maximum volume increase and better directional output. Meaning you can continue discreetly enjoying the K-pop band you pretend not to like, unless you're standing in proximity within a silent room.
For privacy, which was a priority Meta strangely felt the need to emphasize, a blinking white light goes off when the device is recording. Minimizing the creep factor is something to appreciate when photo and video functions are easily activated by touchpads on the glasses' stems. Interestingly, this became the reason why certain frame colour options such as beige were removed as they were less obvious to see when the LED was turned on.
Operating on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 processor and eight times more internal storage at 32GB, the glasses allegedly last up to four hours of active use and come with a nifty sunglass charging case …which take approximately 75 minutes to full charge.
Besides taking your annoying voice commands, the integrated Meta AI is slated for an update next year to enable interaction with AR surroundings. Augmented reality is an intriguing direction to head in, when gadgets like Google Glass and Bose Frames never really took off. It begs the question why, when it didn't gain much traction two years ago, are they pitching a new version now?
Does the company know something we don't about the near future that produces this unfounded confidence in consumer demand? Will there be another pandemic where we will all be forced indoors to see the resurgence of virtual reality, NFTs and cryptocurrency? In other words, will the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses finally be cool? And will I ever get to answering these speculative questions as opposed to simply throwing them out there? I guess some things we'll never know.