“Hey Facebook, take a video”. The case is simple as pie. Once the new Rayban Stories glasses are on and activated, all you have to do is ask them to film to immortalize the moment. With this model launched by Meta (ex-Facebook) on April 14 in France, you no longer need to frantically search for your phone to capture the beauty of a moment. As soon as you look in the right direction, these connected Raybans take care of everything.
It is of course also possible to take a photo or a video without expressing your request aloud, thanks to a discreet button located on the arm of the glasses. The elegant Rayban Stories even allow you to take a call or listen to music. An attractive proposition: in the United States, Meta has already sold 800,000 copies of this model sold in France for 329 euros.
Crossing the desert of connected glasses
A surprising success: ten years ago, when the world discovered that Google was working on a very similar object, the Google Glass, the reception had been icy. “Danger for privacy”, product “for cyborgs”, the glasses of the Mountain View firm had been sharply criticized. What changed ? Almost everything, starting with our relationship to privacy. Ten years ago, citizens thought (wrongly) that they knew how to protect their privacy on the Internet. Since the dreaded profiling methods used by web giants have been revealed and dissected, the public has however understood how much their personal data was exposed.
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A realization that triggered a double movement. On the one hand, the takeover of data: regions like Europe have implemented new legislation (notably the GDPR) and companies like Apple have made it a powerful selling point. At the same time, citizens took their side of this new situation. After all, our state-of-the-art smartphones also allow us to film, at any time and in high definition, the onlookers around us. Some recent phones even have x100 zoom worthy of spy novels. When social networks are overflowing with selfiesit is also clear that Internet users have a much more relaxed relationship with the dissemination of their image.
No more cyborg helmets
The whole sector of smart objects has also matured. After beginnings where enthusiasm bordered on the ridiculous (as evidenced by these absurd connected egg boxes sending notifications to suggest refilling the stock), manufacturers have understood that connecting an everyday object to the Internet was not an end in itself. : it still had to bring real added value and not degrade the basic experience. The tech giants are therefore working to move away from cyborg helmets and integrate their components as much as possible into accessories resembling discreet glasses. Partnering with the iconic Rayban brand was wise on Meta’s part.
Manufacturers of connected glasses and headphones have finally clarified their offer. Ten years ago, the giants of the Web already evoked, in a somewhat confused way, the promise of virtual universes and augmented reality. Their discourse indiscriminately mixed examples of mastered uses (taking a photo, listening to music, etc.) with distant innovations (displaying holograms, etc.). Fortunately, they ended up structuring their projects around three types of products. On the one hand, devices like Meta’s Rayban Stories, which simply transfer existing functions on our smartphones (cameras, etc.) to glasses. These devices do not pose insurmountable technical challenges, especially since the necessary components are not energy-intensive and do not unduly weigh down the design.
Then come virtual reality headsets, in other words devices that immerse the wearer in a totally artificial universe. “These are products that we now master well, even if the manufacturers continue to improve them”, explains Alexandre Embry, technology and innovation manager of immersive technologies at Capgemini.
The last category, on the other hand, is very complex to develop: it is that of so-called mixed reality devices. Here, it is not a question of displaying a “simple” artificial universe, but of superimposing on reality a virtual layer integrating into the perspective in a perfectly realistic way. With such devices, the metaverse dear to Zuckerberg takes on its full meaning: you could have a coffee with friends who are present partly in the flesh, partly in the form of holograms, or even walk around town and see useful information and fun animations displayed.
It is, alas, difficult to fit all the components necessary to display mixed reality in a device as light as glasses. Only fairly massive and very expensive headsets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 at €3,849 allow this and are, therefore, more intended for professional customers (to work on 3D simulations for example). “The Holy Grail are mixed reality glasses, explains Alexandre Embry. But they pose immense technical challenges in terms of autonomy and miniaturization of components.” It is this object perfectly suited to everyday and nomadic use that Meta, Apple and Google dream of building. However, we will have to wait a few more years before we can dive into the metaverse with simple Raybans.