Facebook has been on the firing line of privacy violations for long. A pep camera fitted on the Ray-ban sunglasses and integrated into a separate Facebook View App is the newest on its list. Glasses with additional features aren’t new and we have already seen camera glasses such as the Snapchat Spectacles and audio glasses like the Amazon Echo Frames. Yet, coming from the social media giant, Facebook – Ray-ban Stories cannot be simply considered as another fancy product. Now, anyone can walk past you, all the while capturing you unaware. Street stalking with hidden cameras and long lenses has anyway become a common practice. Even though many developed nations have drafted strict privacy policies and special permissions for practicing photographers, given the enormity of the camera users, violations are aplenty. Of course, these updated technologies can be put into best use, but, this all-too-handy Stories could catch anyone off guard.
The sunglasses are built in partnership with Facebook and Ray-Ban’s parent company EssilorLuxottica and are the first product to be produced as a result of a multi-year partnership between the two companies. Ray-Ban Stories will be available in 20 different combinations in classic Ray-Ban styles — Wayfarer, Wayfarer Large, Round, and Meteor — and five colors with a range of lenses including clear, sun, transition, and prescription. Ray-Ban Stories features dual integrated 5-megapixel cameras that are designed to let the wearer capture everyday moments as they happen from a first-person perspective. The dual 5MP camera gives new depth and dimension to the content. It takes high-resolution photos (2592×1944 pixels) and quality video (1184×1184 pixels at 30 frames per second). Camera automatically adjusts to the light around for high-quality captures. One can also attend to calls, listen to music via blue tooth while on the go.
Ray-ban Stories sunglasses are available online for $299 and in select retails stores in the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The Stories look and feel like standard Ray-Ban sunglasses, just with slightly bulkier temples and small cameras clearly visible in the top left and right corners. One can easily record the world as seen, while on a casual stroll in the park, a day-out with family, or in a more dangerous way, peep into someone with mal-intention. It allows both taking photos and up to 30-second videos using the capture button or hands-free with Facebook Assistant voice commands. Prescription lenses are also available, and while Ray-Ban hasn’t specified pricing for prescription lenses, the company typically charges a hefty $225 for single-vision prescriptions on top of the frame price.
Naturally, one needs a Facebook account to use Ray-ban Stories and, the Facebook View App that is different than the standard Facebook is required to shoot, edit and share images/videos. The app walks one through a painless pairing process, connecting the sunglasses to an android/i-phone without requiring manual pairing over Bluetooth or ad-hoc Wi-Fi network. The app is primarily to manage photos and videos on the Stories and to transfer them to the phone’s camera roll. Facebook doesn’t provide any specific storage size for the glasses, only that they can hold around 500 photos or 35 thirty-second videos. Pressing the Sync button in the app catalogs the photos and videos on the glasses and generates thumbnails for browsing.
After the app is synced and the content is downloaded to the phone, the app can be used to edit both photos and videos. There is an option to tweak settings like brightness and saturation, tap a one-touch Enhance button to automatically make those adjustments, crop the frame, and trim video clips. It is then possible to share the captures, not only on Facebook but also on other platforms such as Twitter or could be sent via email.
Facebook does say that it has an inbuilt external-facing capture LED that signals to others when the wearer is taking a photo or video; but that’s not all that convincing as far as the possibilities for privacy violation concerns are considered. While some of us are visibly worried about these and such related upgrades that are double-edged swords, there are a few who are disappointed that it doesn’t have a consumer-friendly augmented reality (AR), the technology that overlays digital content on the physical world. Facebook says it eventually plans to embed that functionality. That said, life does move on, and this new way to capture is here to stay, and will surely get much more sophisticated and sneaky. Although it is yet to be available in the Indian market, sooner or later, we can see Stories, creating unheard and unseen stories.