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Ray-Ban Stories and Snapchat Spectacles: Why VR Glasses May Replace Your Phone

RAYBAN MOBILE
Facebook / Ray-Ban

With the recent announcements of the new Snapchat Spectacles 3, as well as the Facebook X Ray-Ban smartglasses called “Stories”, we have officially entered a new phase in the consumer tech space. While the concept of sunglasses that have the same capabilities/functionality as the modern smartphone has existed for a while—and was even tested by large companies such as Google—it is only now that the idea seems more realistic. 

Before we dive deeper into how these smart glasses will look and who might be the biggest companies creating the future of consumer tech, let’s analyze the evolution of the devices we use the most today. All these devices are right now merged in one: the smartphone. 

Take the phone for example. Invented in 1876, the phone was clunky and heavy at first. Not only were phones difficult to use, but they were also difficult to access. Having a phone was a luxury not many had, as the cost was too high and the infrastructure was not there. Apartment buildings used to have one phone through which everyone in the building contacted other people. If you were to explain this concept to people who use smartphones every day, it would sound absurd.

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An Early Apple Macintosh Computer In Paris, France In December, 1981 / Bertrand Laforet / Getty Images

The computer was constantly evolving throughout the 20th century. Its first versions look more like entire rooms than what we think of today as a computer or a device with computing power. From 1981’s Altair to the first Macintosh, the evolution was clear. Yet, compared to today, it feels like ages away in terms of design and functionality. What we consider as practical and advanced has changed drastically every decade since the 1980s and forward. It took a tremendous development in engineering and technology in general for these advancements to happen. Along with the internet, these developments created trillions of dollars worth of new industries and changed our lives forever. 

The Modern Era:

Fast forward to today and the difference in the devices we use is drastic. We have smartphones through which we call people, listen to music, browse the internet and more. We look at the screen for hours every day and have created digital parallel lives, whether we realize it or not.

However, the next step in our digital evolution may come in a different form entirely: “Smartglasses."  The next consumer tech product must be something familiar with minimal user friction, and eyewear seems the logical fit. Everyone uses some form of eyewear.

While looking at a phone screen is engaging and fun, smartglasses will take digital reality to a new level. Watching directions on your phone is one thing, but looking at arrows directly on the street as if they’re painted there is something else. Other concepts—such as watching a movie while waiting for your friend to arrive in the Uber—are possible. What you consider “reality” and “digital reality” or simply "social media” will completely change. When the new reality is more fun for you, who is to say that isn’t the actual one? While we used to think that our real life was separated from the “portal” to the other world (the smartphone, in this case), smartglasses will merge these two worlds into one. 

As has been the case in consumer tech, every product is approached through a social aspect. This case is no exception, as two companies who seem to be pushing the most in this direction are two social media giants: Facebook and Snapchat. While their profiles may be similar, their approaches are different.

Facebook just presented its first wearable smartglasses, named “Stories”, in collaboration with Ray-Ban. Facebook is collaborating with arguably the world’s most famous sunglasses brand, in order to lure consumers into buying them more easily. With Ray-Ban Stories, you can take photos, videos, phone calls and listen to music. By using the classic “Wayfarer” frame, Facebook eliminates user friction and gets rid of the “unknown” factor. The camera in the eyeglasses is hard to see from a distance. Even the Facebook logo is not present in the glasses, but instead only in the packaging.

As for specs, the Ray-Ban stories have dual 5 megapixel cameras, Wi-Fi that connects with the phone, 5.0 Bluetooth, 500-picture storage capacity and a speaker system that allows you to take calls and listen to music. It also supports a number of apps, such as: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that these glasses are a step towards achieving the company’s vision of smartglasses replacing phones. From what we’ve seen so far, the smartglasses are a meaningful step forward towards the goal, even if that is not feasible right now. These smartglasses do not have AR capabilities, but Facebook has stated that they do plan to create AR smartglasses in the future. Tactically, smartglasses would allow Facebook to bypass the App Store and Google Play and fully realize its plans of creating the metaverse. Their price tag starts at 299$.

Meanwhile, Snapchat has created its own in-house glasses called Spectacles. Recently, they presented the newest version of Spectacles and sent them to influencers in order to get feedback. As for specs, their price tag is 380$, with a 4GB memory capacity, the ability to take pictures, record videos and augment animations in the glasses. The capabilities of Spectacles clearly show that the engineering progress made by companies such as Snapchat and Facebook—through their Stories product—is expected to match or even surpass the similar industrial design advancements made in the recent decades. 

Whatever our metaverse future looks like, it's safe to say we may end up viewing our current sunglasses the same way we look at the phones and computers of the past. 

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