Ever wish you could record video and take pictures using cool tech-powered glasses like James Bond? One of the perks of being the CEO and founder of a virtual reality company is that I get to play with some cool toys and see how they can be used for learning. So in today's article we're going to take a look at the Ray-Ban Stories Wayfarer glasses and see if they can help take notes and learn more efficiently.
Ray-Ban Stories are the result of a collaboration between the Ray-Ban and Facebook, fusing the signature Ray-Ban look and feel with smart features, including dual cameras, headphone-free music playback and access to Facebook’s branded virtual assistant.
I’ve been trying out the Ray-Ban Stories for the past few weeks to see if they are worth the £299/US$299 price tag and whether they can help with learning and studying or whether the tech yet to mature.
What's In The Box
Ray-Ban Stories are available in three distinct Ray-Ban designs; Wayfarer, Round and Meteor. Combined with six colour options, as well as the option to select either clear or transition lenses or use prescription lenses at an additional cost.
I went for the Wayfarer model and the blue blocking lenses to test out some of their benefits for learning which I'll talk about at the end of the video.
The packaging is really nice and in the box the Stories come in a Ray-Ban-branded hard carry case, that doubles up as a charging case using USB-C, holding additional charges to keep the glasses powered for extended amounts of time and there’s also a soft pouch to store them in too.
Compared to normal Ray-Ban glasses the Stories have slightly chunkier frames and arms which house two 5Mp cameras, along with a single button on the top of the right arm used for activating the camera. When you’re taking a photo or video, you’ll see a small white LED on the inside of the frames, just on the periphery of your vision, and there’s a second next to the camera to indicate recording status to those nearby too.
The arms have micro speakers embedded into the bottom to allow you to take phone-calls and listen to music without needing headphones.
You can control volume and playback via a series of taps and swipes via a touch-sensitive surface on the right arm of the Stories. The sensitivity of swipes to adjust volume can take some getting used to, but it’s a handy feature to have when listening to music on the go.
There’s also a three-microphone array that lets you take calls and perform certain actions, like taking a photo or recording a video, via Facebook Assistant.
Photo and Video
To use the video and photo-function pressing the capture button on the right arm begins a 30-second video, while pressing and holding the button for a second or so will trigger a photo. Yep it feels kind of back to front but you can also do this via the facebook Assistant if you prefer voice control.
The 5Mp cameras aren't as good as the latest mobile phone cameras and it was a bit disappointing that you are limited to only 30-seconds of video rather than anything longer. That being said photos and video are still pretty nice with image stabilization if you're out and about and the perspective looking cool when viewed back.
To give you an example of the quality of the video I've posted two clips of a bitesize book review to my YouTube shorts. One uses a 4k Sony DSLR camera and the other uses the Stories. I've added them both in here so you can get a feel for the difference in quality. The main benefit of the Ray-Ban Stories video was that I could hit record and then upload directly to socials similar to recording on mobile.
Audio is pretty good too. The Stories sport stereo speakers set into the arms, designed to direct music downwards towards your ears; allowing you to listen to your favourite tunes or podcasts while still remaining fully aware of your environment.
Using the speakers in combination with the built-in mics, you can also use Ray-Ban Stories to take calls. With a double-tap of the right arm, you can answer calls. The downside is that there is obviously no noise cancellation and the built-in microphones pick up a lot of environmental sound, which quickly becomes a problem in louder environments.
If I'm out and about normally I'll use my Airpod Pros with noise cancellation to listen to music and take calls which for me is a much better experience though it is nice to have an alternative for quick calls.
To get the videos and photos captured on Ray-Ban Stories off the glasses you need to use Facebook's View app for iOS and Android. I'm not a massive fan of having to download an extra app and I kind of assumed it would save directly to your phone after pairing but it's actually fairly quick to preview thumbnails and then save photos and videos to your phone's photo library or upload to social media.
When it comes to battery life, Facebook claims that Ray-Ban Stories can last around six hours if taking the occasional photo or video, and listening to music intermittently. Continuous use for me was usually a couple of hours before it dropped to less than 50% charge and needed a top up in the hard case.
Using Ray-Ban Stories For Studying
So these glasses don't have any Augmented Reality function and Facebook have kind of said that they are an early experiment to get feedback into smart glasses. My main interest was whether the camera and photo functions could be used to help make taking notes or capturing information more efficient from a learning point of view. As you know from my video on how I remember everything I read I regularly take notes on Kindle and from physical books and store these to the cloud where they are tagged and I can quickly look back through these notes.
I deliberately went for the blue-blocking lenses as there is some evidence that blue light, which is often emitted by computer screens and electronic devices, can reduce melatonin production and interfere with sleep. Now I don't need prescription glasses so I figured if I'm reading or working I might as well pop on the blue blocking Stories and then use them to snapshot or video sections of books I'm reading in the evening before bed. Usually I would take a picture of a physical book page using my iPhone and store it to my Evernote or store a section using Kindle highlights and tapping the button on the glasses definitely felt quicker than pulling out my phone. The frames were comfortable and the blue-blocking pair that I used became part of my wind-down routine at night.
In terms of taking snapshots for notes the downside was that it took a bit of getting used to in terms of lining up the book and, where a phone camera can zoom in or Evernote's OCR tech can automatically capture a paragraph of text, there was some additional editing and exporting needed from the Facebook view app. That being said having them on my desk and using them for reading and capturing notes did feel quicker. When trying them out I also attended a conference and did a number of zoom calls and webinars. It felt pretty fun recording 30-second snippets or taking pictures of slides or information but the 30-second video limit didn't always allow for capturing everything. If I'm recording my screen to share with my team in slack this will usually go longer than 30-seconds. I was also hoping for longer recording time as I wanted to see if we could record some surgical training and operations to capture on-the-job experiential learning as that's part of what my company Virti does using 4k and 360 cameras.
Where the Stories come into their own more is for their intended purpose which is for sharing short clips to socials. The camera is quick and fun for capturing basic standard definition B-Roll or images and then sharing from your mobile. This will be great for creators wanting to share knowledge in bitesize chunks to YouTube Shorts, Instagram Stories or TikTok but less useful for longer-form content.
Ray-Ban Stories aren’t the perfect smart glasses but given that we’re so early into the development of smart glasses in general, that’s not a bad thing. The quality of the camera or audio isn’t quite good enough to ditch your dedicated camera and headphones, but if you like the idea of having easy access to those features, and you like glasses or sunglasses with that iconic Ray-Ban style, the Stories are a great first step into the world of smart glasses. The main downside for anyone studying is the price. At almost £300 or $300 they are definitely a luxury purchase rather than an essential. I'll be using my Ray-Ban Wayfarer Stories to grab some B-Roll and take more notes while reading but I'm not sure I'll be wearing them all the time or switching out my AirPods or sunglasses just yet.