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The scoop on Meta's new Ray-Bans

Glasses half full

Welcome to Lowpass, a newsletter about the future of entertainment and the next big hardware platforms, including smart TVs, ambient computing and AR / VR. This week: Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses are getting a refresh.

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Here’s what’s next for Meta’s Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses

Meta’s big hardware push this fall will be all about the Quest 3, which the company is positioning as the first mass market mixed reality headset. But while the company has already revealed its plans for a VR hardware refresh, it has also been working on a new version of its Ray-Ban smart glasses.

Updated models will feature an option to livestream video, among other features, according to internal documents I’ve been able to review. Meta is also looking to strengthen privacy protections for the device. (A Meta spokesperson declined to comment.)

However, there won’t be any AR component to the device. Meta is still working on AR glasses as well, and is looking to manufacture 1000 units of a first-generation AR wearable next year, The Information reported last month.

Here’s what I’ve been able to learn about Meta’s upcoming smart glasses refresh:

Same partner, new frames. Meta continues to work with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica to make Ray-Ban-branded smart glasses. Existing models, one of which is pictured above if you’re reading this on the web, are currently being phased out; the refresh is going to include several new frames options.

  • One of these options appears to be linked to a trademark application for “Ray-Ban Skyler” that EssilorLuxottica filed earlier this year.

  • Meta and EssilorLuxottica announced a multi-year partnership three years ago, and first introduced the current-generation Ray-Ban Stories product in September of 2021.

  • Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth hinted at a refresh of the device during a recent Instagram AMA. “I love my Ray-Ban Stories that exist today,” Bosworth said. “The ones that we have under development are even more exciting, and we will have more to share on that pretty soon.”

  • Meta’s existing Ray-Ban Stories haven’t exactly been a breakout success story. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Meta and EssilorLuxottica had sold only around 300,000 units by February. Out of those, only 10% were being actively used per month.

Better cameras, live video streaming. The Journal also reported that the next version of the device will come with “improved battery life and better cameras.” One reason that Meta is tweaking battery performance is that it intends to bring live streaming to its smart glasses.

  • Users will be able to live stream directly to Facebook and Instagram with the device. There’s no word on support for other services at this point.

  • Live streamers will be able to directly communicate with their audience, with the glasses relaying comments via audio over the built-in headphones.

  • Meta has in the past leaned on Instagram influencers to promote Ray-Ban Stories, and this new feature could be a pretty big draw for that crowd.

  • Current-generation Ray-Ban Stories devices can capture photos and short video clips, but don’t support live streaming.

No more creep shots. Privacy has been a major concern for Meta and its work on smart glasses and AR products. Current-gen Ray-Ban Stories glasses feature an LED that is meant to alert bystanders of someone recording them with the device, but the solution has been imperfect.

  • European regulators expressed worries that the LED light wasn’t bright enough.

  • A bunch of people have been able to further obfuscate the light with tape or paint.

  • Meta has been telling device owners that such interventions would be against its terms of service, but there’s been no way to enforce those terms with current-gen devices.

  • That will change with the next version, which won’t take photos or videos when the LED has been tampered with, according to documents I have seen.

Adaptive volume, additional audio services. Current-gen Ray-Ban Stories feature integrated stereo speakers, and can be used as a Bluetooth headset. In addition, the device also offers a more direct integration with Spotify, with users being able to skip tracks and more simply by tapping the frame.

  • Meta is looking to bring similar features to other music services, but I wasn’t able to confirm which service may be next.

  • To improve the overall audio experience, Meta is looking to bring adaptive volume control to its smart glasses.

  • With this feature, the glasses will automatically monitor the ambient noise level, and increase playback volume in noisy surroundings.

Plans can change. I wasn’t able to learn when exactly Meta is looking to start selling its new Ray-Bans, but I expect the company to provide some updates on the device at next month’s Connect conference.

It’s also worth noting that roadmaps for unannounced products can change, and the company may ultimately decide to not launch some of the aforementioned features, or not make them available right away.

What’s certain is that Meta hasn’t given up on smart glasses, which the company sees as a necessary step towards full-blown AR wearables. The company appears further along on that road than many of its competitors: Earlier this week, Business Insider reported that Google’s own AR hardware efforts were mired by frequent changes in direction and senior executive departures.

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Today 11am PT: Lowpass Filter Talk featuring AugX Labs CEO Jeremy Toeman

Please join us this Thursday for the inaugural Lowpass Filter Talk with AugX Labs CEO Jeremy Toeman. Toeman has a long history in online media, which includes working on the original Slingbox, founding the social TV startup Dijit, as well as leadership roles at CBS Interactive, WarnerMedia and Joyn. We’ll talk about his company’s new video creation tool Augie, the state of AI video, streaming and more.

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What else

Apple Vision Pro hand tracking divides developers. For Fast Company, I explored why some developers like the idea of a controller-free VR future.

Microsoft kills the Azure Kinect Developer Kit. The cloud-powered depth camera was a successor of the Xbox Kinect, which got discontinued in 2017.

Apple Podcasts gains new creator tools. Creators are getting better analytics for paid subscriptions, among other things.

Netflix is letting you keep those DVDs. The company is winding down its DVD service next month, but subscribers won’t be charged if they don’t return their borrowed discs.

The latest insights on smart speakers. Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates is sharing some recent data on smart speaker ownership and market share.

Someone already got their hands on an Apple Vision Pro. Apple has a pretty restrictive NDA for Vision Pro app developers, but that didn’t stop one of them from sharing their device with Apple Insider.

And here’s the inevitable Quest 3 leak. An unboxing video posted on Reddit shows that people with glasses will have an easier time with this headset.

Prompts DailyGet the most simplified and tactical AI prompts, insights and tools to stay ahead of the curve. Read by ~100,000 readers from Apple, Microsoft, Google, Meta and more!

That’s it

This is cool: Former Nickelodeon Entertainment Lab SVP Chris Young just posted a highlight / behind-the-scenes reel for “Meet the Voxels,” a show he was developing at the network that ultimately never launched. The show that was using a lot of cutting-edge real-time and virtual production technology. I first met Young when I toured the Lab in 2018, and reconnected with him a year ago to write about some of the VR-powered production technologies he was testing out in his living room. Now, would someone please leak the pilot?

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Image depicting a first-gen Ray-Ban Stories device courtesy of Meta.


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