Ease of use, good outdoor shots and plenty of battery life, but Facebook’s glasses have a problem
They are not glasses for augmented reality and their strength lies in being first and foremost sunglasses that are beautiful to wear and to look at. Because they are designed by one of the leading fashion houses, EssilorLuxottica, and feature three popular Ray-Ban frames. It’s enough to give full meaning to Ray-Ban Stories, the eyewear born from the partnership between the French multinational and Facebook, designed to allow you to film the top moment during events or happenings that involve us during the day, but also to facilitate the creation of content for social media with photographs and videos of up to 30 seconds from a subjective perspective, different from the usual. 4i-Mag tested the Wayfarer version, one of those on sale in addition to Round and Meteor models.
So easy to use that even children can wear them
Similar to the first Spectacles launched by Snapchat five years ago, they house the two 5-megapixel cameras (one shoots, the other processes images), three microphones, two speakers and the battery on the arms, but weigh only 5 grams more than the original frames. Comfortable to wear, they are the essence of immediacy in wanting or being able to have the surrounding reality in your pocket, because it only takes a few seconds to capture the scene, remaining hands-free and without depending on smartphones or other devices. If you look at Ray-Ban Stories carefully, you’ll notice the small button to turn them on, while only when you’re shooting and for a brief moment do you catch the white LED that signals to others that a recording is starting or that a shot is about to be taken.
Ease of use is a central element of the glasses: when switched on, holding down the shutter release button produces a photograph, while pressing it once and then later starts and ends a film, with all the content that can be viewed on smartphones and computers using the Facebook View app, which in post-production allows you to create some 3D effects. Videos and pictures can also be obtained by voice, only in English for now, using the commands “Hey Facebook, take a picture” or “take a video”. Voice assistance, however, ends here, with wider support planned for the next generation.
Good quality (during the day), surprising audio for calls
Generally speaking, the quality of clips and images produced by the glasses is more than good, provided they are used in certain conditions. The first is in outdoor environments, during daylight hours (as long as you avoid rain and diving into the water), because when the sun goes down and in dimly lit environments, Ray-Ban Stories struggle. That’s why, in addition to panoramic photos, they’re a good companion for live events, such as sports matches, concerts and other similar performances where the goal is to bring home a fragment of the experience, rather than the perfect shot. Just as when you rely on a point-and-shoot camera to secure a snapshot that, even with a quick glance, takes you back in time.
The positive surprise was the audio, particularly for calls, with less convincing effects for listening to music, except when isolated from the rest of the world. It goes without saying that the excellence achieved in quiet environments is gradually spoiled in more crowded contexts, with background noise disturbing listening in both cases. In any case, under no circumstances should you prefer glasses that take advantage of wi-fi and Bluetooth to a pair of earphones for extended listening sessions, and not just because bass frequencies are almost completely absent. Here, too, the simplicity of use remains, because by touching the right temple forwards and backwards you can adjust the volume, while one or more touches manage the music tracks and the start and end of calls.
Long life, but the privacy issue remains to be resolved
One problem that doesn’t affect the Ray-Ban Stories is battery life, with the battery providing more than five hours of use. In case of need, then, there is the case that includes another battery with which to recharge the glasses three times. That’s enough time for several days’ use, unless you want to spend a day at the beach and never take your glasses off. During our three-day stay in Naples, during which we tested them, there was no need to recharge them. The USB-C port on the back of the case (with its own power supply, which is not included in the package) recharges the glasses in just over an hour. As for the integrated memory, the glasses can store around 30 videos or up to 450-500 photos. The contents are saved and encrypted, so that in the event of loss they will remain invisible to anyone who finds them.
On sale from 329 euros and available in five colours, the Facebook and Ray-Ban glasses are a simple and fun object from which one should not expect miracles, but only what is promised. If you want a more intelligent and advanced wearable, you have to go elsewhere, but there are still serious doubts about the privacy of the individuals who end up in the frame. During a few weeks of testing, no one noticed the fleeting white light that comes on during the day when using them. An ideal option to feel like James Bond and hunt down the bad guys, but also a hidden camera that in the hands of someone with no common sense can cause annoyance and problems: from changing rooms to beauty salons, passing through doctors’ offices and sensitive places, the list of potential violations of the conduct indicated in the directions is long. And history teaches us that man is not always able to resist temptation.