The Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, jointly launched by Ray-Ban and Facebook in September 2021, lack novelty value and appear doomed to fail. The absence of augmented reality (AR) capabilities alongside Facebook’s tainted reputation on data privacy and the lack of a killer app will ensure they don’t attract a mainstream audience.
Why did Facebook enter the smart glasses market?
Facebook wants to grab a share of the consumer smart glasses market, which will be worth $565m by 2030, according to GlobalData forecasts. Currently a niche product , smart glasses could potentially replace smartphones in the future.
However, the smart glasses market is volatile. Big names like Intel and Bose and well-funded start-ups like Osterhout Design Group (ODG) and Daqri have all exited the market, having failed to produce devices capable of living up to the hype.
Several factors will count against the Ray-Ban Stories
The key factors that will hinder the success of the Ray-Ban Stories are:
- Lack of AR. The Ray-Ban Stories are audio-based devices with no AR capabilities. While audio smart glasses have been around for several years, they have not proven popular. One of the pioneers, Bose, quit the market entirely in 2020, presumably due to low demand. Audio smart glasses will continue to underperform compared to their AR equivalent, as the latter offers audio and interactive visual services.
- Privacy issues. Many consumers perceive smart glasses as a threat to privacy due to their built-in cameras and microphones, which can record video and audio. Facebook’s involvement with Ray-Ban Stories is particularly damaging given Facebook’s reputation for taking insufficient measures to protect data privacy. Indeed, a week after the devices’ launch, Ireland’s Data Privacy Commission directed Facebook to demonstrate that the glasses’ diminutive LED indicator light was a truly “effective means” of letting members of the public know they were being filmed or photographed.
- No killer app. Ray-Ban Stories lack novelty. The devices are a mix of Snap’s Spectacles (that allow videos and photo capturing) and the Bose Frames (which offered audio streaming and phone calls). In addition, Facebook has failed to develop a tentpole app, which would make the smart glasses appeal to consumers that do not use social media services.
Facebook is making an effort to expand into hardware
Smart glasses are yet another attempt by Facebook to expand beyond social media into products. It has tried this already with Oculus VR and Portal, with varying degrees of success.
However, with Stories, it has put Ray-Ban in the driver’s seat for branding and retail distribution. Ray-Ban’s brand reputation and global retail network are what Facebook is banking on, but the lack of a compelling use case represents a significant barrier to success.
Ray-Ban Stories illustrate recent trends in the smart glasses market
Ray-Ban Stories’ resemblance to regular eyewear will make them more acceptable to consumers. Facebook will continue to assess consumer perception towards smart glasses before launching its own-brand AR-capable devices, expected in 2022. It must develop a service ecosystem around these smart glasses, address data privacy issues, and offer compelling use cases to convince consumers to adopt. This will give it scope for success and help it compete with Apple’s AR smart glasses in the future.