[imagesource: Jason Henry]
One of the more intense episodes of Black Mirror was The Entire History of You, where technology enables the character’s eyes to record everything that happens, to be rewatched as memories.
That terrifying level of technological sophistication feels close to home when you realise tech companies have tried something similar before, with glasses that record and capture everything you see.
If that freaks you out, you can be thankful that none of these companies have had much success with their attempts.
Remember Google trying out the failed Google Glasses? How about Snapchat’s version of high-tech glasses, which could record clips and take photos?
Yeah, no, not really.
But now Facebook is giving it a go, collaborating with Ray-Ban.
Facebook’s glasses are called Ray-Ban Stories and will allow users to take photos, record videos, listen to music or podcasts, and take phone calls through a Bluetooth connection and onboard microphone.
They are on sale in Ray-Ban shops and online for £299 (almost R6 000):
Early reviews have been largely unkind, with the glasses called “pointless” and just plain “silly”.
Here’s Mashable with their hot take:
Facebook’s newest bit of hardware comes with such a comically limited and shoddily executed feature set for the price that it’s hard to take it seriously as a product at all.
This is just an expensive toy for influencers seemingly designed to make Facebook look “cool” again, built for a world where “Stories” are now widely known as ephemeral and easily forgotten snippets of our social media lives.
Knowing that Facebook has long been under scrutiny for how it treats users’ personal data, having the glasses surreptitiously film people is obviously a massive concern.
The Telegraph has reported on this privacy problem, mentioning that people struggled to see the one, tiny white warning light that is supposed to inform people when they are being filmed:
Early reviewers discovered that a single white light designed to turn on when the glasses are recording 30-second video clips was difficult to detect, with many subjects unaware they were being filmed.
…One reviewer who was granted early access to the device at the Wall Street Journal said that she filmed more than 20 people with the glasses but none could detect the light, particularly in daylight.
The camera continues to function if a wearer applies tape over the warning light, although Facebook said this would breach its terms of service.
On the other hand, Facebook argues that because clips only last for 30 seconds, and wearers must press a button on the frame to begin recording, surreptitious filming won’t be so easy.
Facebook is ultimately trying to get people comfortable with high-tech headgear:
“We asked ourselves, how do we build a product that helps people actually be in the moment they’re in?” Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs, said in an interview.
“Isn’t that better than having to take out your phone and hold it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?”
A reviewer over at The New York Times has a point about the audio activation feature, called Facebook Assistant, which allows the wearer to take hands-free photos and videos:
For me, that was a sticking point. What do the people around me think when they hear me utter, “Hey, Facebook, take a photo”? Can I still look cool doing that? Can anyone?
What’s more, to help Facebook improve the assistant, people are asked to allow the device to store transcripts of their voice interactions, which will later be reviewed by a mix of humans and machine-learning algorithms. I didn’t love that and imagine others won’t be too keen, either, no matter how benign their voice interactions might be.
Although, you can also take photos and record videos by pressing a button on the right temple of the glasses.
For Mark Zuckerberg, the ultimate goal is to eventually release a pair of smart glasses that fully augment reality, which puts a kind of virtual overlay onto the world in front of people.
Call me when they can tell me the name of the people I’m talking to, or even before I greet them.
That’s the sort of technology I can get behind.
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