Smart glasses that can discreetly take photos and capture videos have been around for a while. Likewise, the new Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses tread a lot of familiar ground, but something about them feels fresh.
The smart glasses — which were just announced at Meta Connect — are the successor to 2021’s Ray-Ban Stories. And this time, Meta is actually putting its name on the product. You’d think that’s because it’s done something special or innovative to zhuzh up the category. I got hands-on time with the glasses a few weeks ago, and that’s not it. It was more that the tech finally started to make sense — both in terms of hardware and how the TikTok era turned normal people into overnight influencers.
This won’t come as a shock, but upgrading to 12-megapixel ultrawide cameras from the Ray-Ban Stories’ 5MP makes a big difference. I’ve seen friends’ Stories videos before. With all love to my friends, their videos looked like they were filmed in potato vision. For reference, the last iPhone with a 5MP rear camera was the iPhone 4 in 2010. The Ray-Ban Stories came out in 2021. The clips I recorded with the new glasses? Those were 1080p at 30 frames per second — and looked similar to what I see every day on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram Reels.
Needless to say, the 12MP camera also means better photos, too. The original Stories photos were 2592 by 1984 pixels. Now, it’s 3024 by 4032 pixels. Most photos will get smooshed when you share them on social media or view them on a phone — but starting out with a higher resolution generally makes for a higher-quality photo.
I only got to see a few videos and photos snapped with the Meta smart glasses during the demo, but so far, everything’s looked shareable. Nothing I’d enter into a contest but something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to post. That shareability is key to the updates this time around.
Case in point, Meta showed me a livestreaming demo on Instagram with the glasses. (You can also livestream to Facebook, but c’mon.) It was neat to see the Instagram app immediately recognizes the glasses and let you switch between the phone’s selfie camera and the glasses. No one was actually watching the livestream, so I couldn’t try out the part where the glasses are supposed to read out the latest comments or reactions in real time. But generally speaking, everything I tried worked seamlessly. Granted, this was a demo in a controlled space. We’ll have to see how well this works in real life.
Meta told me you’ll also be able to share the photos and videos you take via voice command — and choose where they’re sent (e.g., texts, Messenger, and WhatsApp). Again, I didn’t get to see this feature in action, but if it ends up working well, it makes this device easier to use in the moment.
The rest of the updates seem to be Meta addressing gripes with the first-gen glasses. Pointedly, the capture LED that alerts others you’re recording is slightly bigger. It also flashes in a pulsing pattern — which Meta says is less easy to ignore than the Stories’ static LED. This, I’m less sure about. Yes, the pattern was more noticeable in person, and these days, people seem more accustomed to others recording social videos in public spaces. But I was also indoors, and direct sunlight has the tendency to wash out any kind of LED or screen. Until I get to test them out in daily life, it’s hard to say whether this slight tweak is actually enough to address privacy fears when the device itself is so discreet. At least with a phone, it’s more obvious when someone’s recording.
The glasses themselves feel a little like becoming a spy. The design here is a classic Ray-Ban look, but the downside of classics is that they’re reliable — not exciting. It doesn’t feel like you have a gadget on your face, and on the street, people probably wouldn’t have spared me a second glance. It left me feeling like I was somehow incognito. At the same time, I also felt like a 2016 Brooklyn hipster was staring back at me in the mirror. The black pair with clear lenses just didn’t make me look like me.
But all that aside, they wear like any other pair of glasses. The arms may be thick, but the tech housed inside them doesn’t really weigh down your face. Compared to other smart glasses, these also have more style options — which has always been one of the weak points in this category. Because mass production for gadgets can get complicated, smart glasses tend to come in “universal” options in black and maybe tortoiseshell, if you’re lucky. These have a handful of new colors, options for various lenses, and a new rounded Headliner frame. Of all the different colors, I was most partial to the new blue — it’s not too “in your face,” and the transparency lets you see the components inside the arms.
The audio leakage problem the Stories have also seems to be on the way to being fixed with these new glasses. Meta says it managed to make the glasses 50 percent louder while improving the directional audio to help keep sound aimed at your ears. You can definitely still hear a faint murmur if you crank the volume up, but you really have to crank it quite loud. But again, we’ll have to see how the glasses fare on the subway compared to a quiet demo space to get a good understanding of how much audio has improved.
A perk of directional audio is you kinda get spatial audio, too. I listened to a recording of Meta reps circling around me while clapping — and yeah, I could hear the sound move around me. It’s sort of cheesy. I can’t imagine wanting to be immersed in your average audio call in that way, but hey. You can do it if you want.
All together, you end up with what seems like a promising tool for content creators — especially those who specialize in POV videos like cooking, driving, and honestly, cat antics. But that’s been the proposed use case for every pair of Snap Spectacles and the original Ray-Ban Stories. What feels new-ish here is, for the first time, I can imagine content influencers actually wanting to use one of these for something other than irony-poisoned clout. Whether it appeals to the average person — that we’ll have to see. I still have a lot of questions about the companion app, connectivity limitations, that IPX4 rating, and of course, battery life. But so far, this feels like a gadget that might not stink. I’m guessing that’s why Meta was finally okay with putting its name on the product.