Can smart glasses be a key tool for creators?

Can smart glasses be a key tool for creators?
Meta and Ray-Ban's second-generation smart glasses. (Credit: Meta)

Meta is pitching its latest set of smart glasses as a key potential tool for creators to capture and livestream their daily lives. But smart glasses have been a tough market to crack, and privacy concerns are abound.

At last week’s Meta Connect event, the tech company unveiled a new set of smart glasses, created in conjunction with eyewear company Ray-Ban, that it is billing as a significant new tool for creators.

Smart glasses have proven to be a tough market to crack. Google Glass, originally released to the public in 2014, never took off with consumers, let alone passed scrutiny over privacy concerns. Same goes for Snap’s Spectacles, which have been around since 2016.

Meta’s first foray into such glasses with Ray-Ban was in 2019. Originally called Stories, the older eyepiece looks practically the same then as the new model does today, with cameras beside either lens, and the ability to playback audio.

The first generation glasses suffered poor user retention, with less than 10% of sold devices being used monthly, according to internal documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. Meta has nevertheless pressed on with creating a second-generation pair, and is trying a different marketing tactic this time around: that they can be significant tools in the hands of influencers.

“You can stay in the moment and stay connected without having to take your phone out, capture what’s going on around you and share it with your friends and the world,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The new model comes with a significantly improved camera (12 megapixels, compared to five in the first model), which capture video in a higher (1080p) resolution. The glasses also come with 32 GB of internal storage. Users can quickly share anything captured to any of Meta’s platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Threads, and WhatsApp. New features allow users to livestream footage captured from their glasses to Facebook or Instagram and verbally ask Meta AI for information related to what they are looking at, à la Apple’s Siri (if it had eyes).

‘Removing the physical barrier’

Given the clear technical upgrades, Scott Guthrie, director general of the Influencer Marketing Trade Body (IMTB), believes the smart glasses are, in theory, a great asset for any creator looking to build and bond with their communities online.

“Removing the physical barrier of pointing a camera at your subject will help creators capture evermore authentic moments,” Guthrie told The Media Leader. “Filming hands free will help influencers catch action shots, too — whether crafting, cooking or on a travel shoot.”

He added that the glasses’ integration with Meta AI could be a great tool for users who want quick details of items they’re looking at, such as travel influencers looking to create videos of, say, historical landmarks, but lacking some needed information in the moment. This assumes, of course, the reliability of information delivered through Meta AI.

“These new Meta/Ray-Ban smart glasses are a reboot,” Guthrie continued. “There are a lot of similarities with the original version launched in 2021 — but the changes are significant. There’s an upgrade in the camera lens, the video quality and in battery power. Importantly, to combat privacy issues and counter scare stories about covert filming, the new frames include a bright LED light which throb brightly whenever the glasses are filming.

“Also of note is the price. Not cheap at $300, but not beyond the reach of many content creators either.”

‘Privacy will still be a big issue’

While Guthrie notes the steps taken by Meta to make it more obvious when a user is recording, privacy remains perhaps the largest hurdle to reach broad audiences with smart glasses. After all, capturing photos and videos from glasses is something out of a spy novel, so work needs to be done to normalise the use of such tech for general consumers. This is even more true now that the tech company has incorporated livestreaming capabilities into the product.

Sarah Salter, head of innovation at Wavemaker, told The Media Leader she is sceptical the changes made by Meta will necessarily popularise the product. “[The market] has been tough to crack likely for several reasons — bad UX, connectivity, battery life, and style,” she said.

“Although the camera is incredible and the blinking animation of the LED indicator has been made more noticeable, I believe privacy will still be a big issue.”

Salter doesn’t believe smart glasses will be a “game changer” for creators, though she concedes there are nevertheless “fantastic features that will support creators and the evolving social media landscape.”

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