Meta and Ray-Ban have released the second generation of smart glasses. The first was called “Ray-Ban Stories.” The new version, introduced in late 2023, is Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.
Both versions have a camera that can take both still and video pictures. The new version also allows for live streaming on Instagram and Facebook. People using the glasses can activate the camera by pressing a capture button on the top of the earpiece stem. Alternatively, users can use voice commands, which they can activate by saying the wake word “Hey Meta” or pressing the touchpad on the side of the earpiece stem.
Images and video from the glasses can be uploaded to a companion iOS or Android app called Meta View and shared to Facebook, Instagram, and other apps or saved to the phone’s camera roll. Each video may be up to 60 seconds long.
When connected by Bluetooth, users can listen to music and other sound from speakers in the glasses’ stems. You can also use the glasses to speak on the phone. With the new glasses, you simply say, “Hey Meta, call” followed by any name in your phone’s contacts. Meta is rolling out other features, including the ability to ask questions, like “How do you make a vegetable stir fry?” Later in 2024, you will be able to ask, “Look and tell me what you see” to get a description of what’s around you. The current generation of Meta Ray-Ban glasses can provide information through audio only, in response to a voice prompt. To protect bystander privacy, the glasses cannot recognize people.
For the user, these and other smart glasses make it possible to photograph or video what’s in front of them without reaching into their pocket for a phone or digital camera. There are also smart glasses designed primarily for business and professional use.
Risks & responsibilities
This relatively new product category brings up questions regarding safety for the user and privacy for anyone who happens to be near someone using the glasses. Users need to follow certain safety rules, like not allowing their glasses to distract them while driving and not misusing their glasses, such as taking images of people without their consent or in private spaces, like locker rooms or bathrooms.
But even if you don’t own a pair of these glasses, you have reason to be concerned about how they impact your privacy and the privacy of others.
It’s not a new concern. When Kodak introduced its first hand-held camera in 1888, some people panicked over what it would mean for personal privacy. In 1901, the New York Times reported how President Theodore Roosevelt admonished a boy using a Kodak camera to take his picture as he exited a church. “Trying to take a man’s picture as he leaves a house of worship. It is a disgrace. You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” he reportedly said.
Fast forward to 1997 and the invention of the camera phone. That innovation ushered in a new and exciting world of photography, but smartphones, which are now ubiquitous and can take pictures and video in ways that may not be as obvious as a stand-alone camera, sparked a new era of concern over the ability to surreptitiously take pictures and videos and record audio.
There are now smartwatches with cameras and devices like GoPro that can be worn on clothing, along with millions of closed-circuit security cameras on storefronts, public buildings, and private homes.
Social norms are protective
Social norms discourage using any type of recording device or camera without the consent of anyone being photographed, and—for the most part—people abide by those norms. But there are some notable exceptions, such as law enforcement, investigative journalism, and use by bystanders of crimes. There are numerous examples where bystanders have used smartphones to document human rights abuses.
It’s important for everyone—whether you own smart glasses or not—to be aware that they are now part of our environment.
And, though smart glasses are still a relatively new product category, we believe they will mostly be used appropriately. But, as with any technology, there remains the possibility of abuse. That’s why it’s important for everyone—whether you own a pair of smart glasses or not—to be aware that they are now part of our everyday world.
Why people get smart glasses
The vast majority of people who own smart glasses will use them responsibly. You might be a parent wanting to capture images of your child at play. A parent at a soccer game can snap a picture of their budding athlete while holding a sippy cup in one hand and a child in the other. They’re great for listening to music or podcasts and, similar to Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. There are also numerous professional applications, including surgery, physical therapy, operating machines, performing maintenance work, and much more.
The point is that if you see someone wearing smart glasses, chances are very good that they are doing so for a legitimate reason.
How to know if someone is capturing images or video
Both the old and new versions of the glasses from Ray-Ban and Meta have a white LED that lights up when taking a picture or recording and, according to Meta, can be visible in bright outdoor spaces up to at least 12ft, and indoor spaces up to at least 24ft. The light flashes for a still image and remains on while a video is being captured. Audio is captured along with video, but the glasses do not record audio except as part of a video recording. The new Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses version has an even larger light to make it more visible. And, unlike the first version, the newer glasses have tamper detection capability, so that the camera won’t work if someone tries to fully cover the LED.
While the light is prominent, there is always the possibility that someone might not notice it or know why it is on, which is why it’s important to educate yourself and others on how these glasses operate. It’s also good to understand how the user can trigger a picture or video.
At the end of the day, if someone is intent on capturing a picture of you, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be able to do it — whether with a phone, glasses, wearable camera, or some other device.
Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses At-a-Glance (2023 Version)
- The product starts at $299 (in the US) and is available at Ray-Ban and other selected retail stores and at ray-ban.com. Prescription lenses are available for an additional cost.
- Users can choose from various frame styles and lenses, including clear and transition.
- Some microphones allow users to talk on the phone. An integrated touchpad allows users to adjust volume, pause, play, and more.
- Each of the frame’s earpiece stems has a speaker and can listen to stereo or monaural audio from smartphone apps via Bluetooth. In other words, you can listen to music or sound from the glasses, without using headphones.
- Users can activate voice commands by saying “Hey Meta” or tapping and holding the touchpad on their glasses.
- The Meta View app is used to manage settings and data and to edit and share images and videos.
- Data on the glasses are encrypted.
- Photos and videos are not uploaded to Meta or any other app unless the user shares the content.
- Users have the option to turn off Assistant and adjust their data-sharing preferences.
- The device has 32 GB of storage in the glasses for up to 100 30-second videos or over 500 photos.
- Fully charged glasses can run up to 4 hours, assuming mixed usage. You can get up to 36 hours by recharging from the carrying case, which you can plug in via a USB C cord when near an outlet.
What the future holds
As technology evolves, expect to see even more sophisticated smart glasses, many with augmented or mixed reality, computer-generated images with a view of the real world. Imagine looking at the White House from Pennsylvania Avenue and peering back through time, watching Abraham Lincoln carry out his duties. Or you could be looking at art in a museum or a book and get a complete description of what you see.
Already, there are industrial and medical applications where smart glasses are used for training and education, real-time collaboration, public safety, to assist in surgery, or to help an airline mechanic know exactly where to insert a part. Just as early personal computers and smartphones have evolved, so will smart glasses in ways that we can only imagine.
We live in a world where there are cameras in nearly every pocket and on every block. This poses challenges when it comes to protecting your privacy in public. You can’t walk down a street (even a residential street with doorbell and driveway cameras) without the possibility of having your picture taken. It’s our new reality. However, we can and, for the most part, do enjoy privacy in private spaces, despite the fact that nearly everyone around us has a smartphone camera, along with a growing array of other devices that can capture images, video, and audio.
Emerging technology is both a boon and a challenge, but also a fact of life, and, like every once-new technology, including matches, kitchen knives, automobiles, and, of course, cameras, there are appropriate and inappropriate uses. The key to any technology is to use it safely and responsibly. There are no guarantees that everyone will use their devices appropriately, but if history is a guide, we can assume that the vast majority of people will.
Most people in public will support privacy norms, and we all can do our part. Being alert and aware is important, especially in highly sensitive situations. These risks are real, and it’s appropriate for the public and policymakers to look for ways to manage them. Still, it’s also important to consider the benefits that we can gain from these new technologies that will continue to enhance our lives.
How to Use Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Responsibly
- Never take pictures or video or record audio of people without their permission (with the possible exception of recording human rights abuses and other horrific crimes).
- Do not use your glasses (turn them off or take them off) in private spaces such as locker rooms, public bathrooms, doctor’s offices, while in line at a pharmacy, places of worship or any other location where it would be inappropriate to use a device with a camera and microphone. Always obey local laws and business policies.
- Do not use your glasses to capture confidential or private information (such as PIN codes and sensitive documents) or to violate copyrights in entertainment venues, museums, and other locations.
- Always be aware of what is in the background of any photo or video, including other people’s property or anything that could identify your location or others’ locations.
- Remember that if your content is uploaded to Facebook, Instagram or any other social media service, it must meet that platform’s community standards. The standards typically prohibit nudity (even if consensual), hate speech or any other form of harassment. There might also be consequences from your school or employer. Posting illegal material could result in prosecution.
- Avoid capturing images or video in any place where it may endanger you or others. While the glasses can be used to capture walks and certain sporting activities, always focus first on your activity and your safety to avoid accidents that could cause harm to you or others.