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Image: Facebook

Ray-Ban Stories, the smart glasses being debuted by Facebook and Ray-Ban today, are most notable for just how much they look like a standard pair of the brand's sunglasses.

Why it matters: That speaks to both the most promising and troublesome aspect of the $299 glasses: They look and feel just like a standard pair of Ray-Bans while adding the ability to capture photos and video.

Details:

  • The $299 glasses have three main "smart" features: they can record photos and 30-second videos via dual 5-megapixel cameras, they can play "open-air" sound without headphones and they allow users to take phone calls.
  • In addition to coming in several styles and colors, they can be made as sunglasses or untinted lenses, prescription and even progressive lenses.
  • Photos and videos are shared only to a companion smartphone app, where the owner can then decide whether and where to share the images and videos.

Between the lines: Ray-Ban Stories pose two big questions: How well they deliver on their promise, and how accepting society will be of people using them in public.

On the first point, the glasses deliver.

  • Weighing just a teaspoon of salt more than a standard pair of glasses, Ray-Ban Stories look and feel like regular glasses while delivering on the product's technology promises: taking decent photos and videos and playing music.
  • While the glasses themselves provide only a couple hours of battery life, the included charging case provides roughly a day of use, Facebook says.

The social reaction is still very much an open question.

  • Facebook notes that the glasses don't do anything you can't do with your smartphone and points to the ways the products let bystanders know they're different.
  • For example, to take a picture or video, users have to either use a voice command or push a button on the side of the glasses. A white LED light on the front indicates that a picture or recording is in progress.

"To some degree, it's more overt than what people are doing with phones," Facebook Reality Labs chief Andrew Bosworth said in an interview.

Yes, but: Those clues are subtle. While noticeable in a small group setting, the gestures and lights are easy to miss in larger gatherings. While Facebook offers tips on respectful use of the camera feature, there is certainly the potential for images to be captured and shared non-consensually.

"You put these out in the wild and people are going to use them the way they are going to use them," said John Breyault, VP of public policy for the National Consumers League, one of several privacy and advocacy groups that Facebook consulted with as Ray-Ban Stories were being developed.

  • Breyault said he was pleased to see Facebook seek and incorporate feedback, including its move to make sure that photos that get transferred to a smartphone stay on the device and only go to Facebook's cloud if a customer actively chooses to send them.

What's next: The glasses go on sale today in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Australia, Ireland and Canada.

  • Facebook and Ray-Ban parent company EssilorLuxottica didn't offer a specific sales forecast, but Bosworth said the glasses aren't intended to be a niche product.

Of note: I'll have more thoughts and observations on Ray-Ban Stories in tomorrow's Signal Boost column in Login.

  • To sign up for Login, Axios' free daily technology newsletter, click here.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 13, 2021 - Technology

Groups launch "How to Stop Facebook" effort

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

A coalition of nonprofits on Wednesday debuted HowToStopFacebook.org, a fresh push to encourage greater government regulation of the social networking giant aimed at forcing the company to change its business model.

Why it matters: The campaign hopes to take the outrage expressed by legislators over the revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen and translate it into action.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.