Facebook has waded into a marketplace that Google and Snap have already experimented in to varying degrees of success: smart glasses.
Ray-Ban, which one year ago was announced as Facebook’s smart glasses partner, unveiled its smart glasses product (dubbed Ray-Ban Stories) on Sept. 9 after teasing the product on a promo page two days prior.
Ray-Ban Stories start at $299 and allow users to listen to music/take phone calls in addition to capturing photo/video. The glasses do not offer AR capabilities.
Prior to the product unveil, little details were known about Facebook’s smart glasses. Bloomberg in January had reported that the glasses would connect to a device and initially wouldn’t be able to overlay digital objects on consumers’ real-world view. BuzzFeed in February also reported that Facebook was considering enabling facial recognition on its smart glasses for purposes including helping consumers recall the names of others at social gatherings.
It’s not hard to imagine how the smart glasses could be important for Facebook and the media companies that rely on it for reach.
For Facebook, smart glasses could encourage consumers to use Facebook and Instagram more because they would have more content to upload thanks to the Ray-Ban-Facebook devices. The devices could also help contribute to Facebook becoming less reliant on ad revenue, which accounted for 98% of its overall revenue in Q2.
As for media companies, future versions of Facebook’s smart glasses represent more screens to where they could eventually reach many Facebook users via things like branded AR filters.
That could encourage media companies to invest more in reaching users on Facebook-owned platforms.
And as Zuckerberg pointed out in Facebook’s most recent earnings call, the smart glasses could help Facebook build the metaverse, a term that generally describes a future iteration of the internet that consumers experience through digital avatars, if the devices eventually allow consumers to more easily interact with the digital world.
Unfortunately, the Facebook-Ray-Ban Venture isn’t something that will be a game-changer for Facebook, at least in the near term.
For one, something that could deter Facebook smart glasses purchases is the Menlo Park-based company’s battered reputation in regard to data privacy.
But perhaps more importantly is that many consumers will likely find it hard to justify paying hundreds of dollars for a pair of smart glasses that are mainly concerned with helping consumers capture photo and video hands-free.
Yes, Ray-Ban Stories have audio features, but it seems apparent that Facebook sees the photo/video capturing component as a bigger selling point.
And Facebook CFO David Wehner in March already attempted to temper expectations for the first Ray-Ban-Facebook product by describing such as something that’s “not going to be anywhere near where we want to eventually go.”
After all, just remember when Snap reportedly had hundreds of thousands of unsold pairs of its first version Spectacles (also priced at over $100 and mainly concerned with helping users capture content to be uploaded to digital platforms) almost a year after the product launched.
It’s then no wonder why Snap CEO Evan Spiegel in October 2019 said he expected it to take 10 years for smart glasses to achieve mass adoption.
Meanwhile, Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen earlier this year speculated widespread interest in smart glasses is still 5 to 10 years away.
These predictions make more sense in the context of eMarketer’s estimate that only 28% of the U.S. population will use AR once per month in 2021.
Of course, the Ray-Ban smart glasses would more quickly take off if they are ever somehow priced significantly lower than $100. And if the product improves the quality of its speakers, which some reviewers have taken issue with, Facebook could more quickly see its hardware revenue grow thanks to smart glasses.
Another way Facebook could strongly incentivize purchases of its smart glasses is by creating a new tab or section within Facebook or Instagram that highlights content that was captured through its smart glasses.
That would likely cause some media companies or influencers hungry for more reach to purchase Facebook’s smart glasses. And high-quality content captured by these groups and featured on these newly created Facebook or Instagram tabs could encourage other consumers to purchase Facebook’s smart glasses.
This article was updated Sept. 9