We Gave the New Ray-Ban Smart Glasses a Spin

I’m not on Facebook. I don’t like the sound of a Metaverse. I’m not looking for more ways to be connected. I’m 40. With two kids. I want to be left alone to meditate. Or just take a shower. Definitely not looking for more stimulation. A stroll down any street with a latte that took some fussy barista ten minutes to make is my idea of a good time. So when I was given a pair of Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses to try, I was skeptical, “Glasses you need to plug in? What’s wrong with the glasses on the tip of my nose I’m staring down, trying to read these tiny directions?!” (You get it, I’m old.)

But this is probably what makes me the perfect person to try out these newfangled sunglasses. If you’re a TikTok influencer, you don’t need to read this, just go buy them. It’s another way to take videos—you’ll love it. But if you’re like me, and use the word ‘newfangled’, this review is for you. 

Turns out, the first thing you need to do when you get these glasses is sign up for Facebook. If you’re not one of the 3 billion people already signed up. I was nervous about what all this would entail, but it turned out to not be so bad. You just download the Facebook View app, make up a fake name like Merl Evans, give them your email and phone number, and you’re in! Took less than 60 seconds to probably sign away all my life rights and bank accounts. But then I got to try on my new charged-up shades. 

I turned them on and was oddly delighted when they announced that they were 90% charged. My old glasses never said a thing to me. After two years of a pandemic, any interaction is a treat. So far so good. I slipped them on, felt reassuringly normal—they just made the world pleasantly, slightly darker—like regular sunglasses. My fears of getting sucked into some kind of digital underground were diminishing.

I used my phone’s camera as a mirror to check out the sunglasses. No signs of intelligence here—just a dummy in some cool Wayfarers smiling back at me. They look great. Far from the jerk in Google Glasses riding a Segway that the term “Smart Glasses” evokes. I took a picture of my cell phone’s camera picture image with the camera in my sunglasses and then downloaded it to my cell phone’s pictures… Does that make sense? Whatever I did, it felt cool. Like I was an off-duty spy, just hanging out waiting for a call from HQ to come in. 

Next up, tunes. I opened up my music app and tapped the temple of the glasses. Suddenly Blues Traveler’s Run Around was playing in my ears! I didn’t even know I had Blues Travelers on my phone. I hadn’t heard the Run Around in years! I slid my finger forward down the arm of the glasses and cranked it up, and there I was—indoors, wearing sunglasses, dancing to Blues Traveler. Have to admit, it was a great time (like I said, old). Sure, I’ve worn sunglasses before and listened to music a bunch, but somehow combining the two made it all feel new. I felt like a kid again. I wanted to hold onto this moment, this feeling of freshness—Hey I could! I clicked the button on my glasses and took a video of my office as I twirled around and, “Like a game show contestant with a parting gift, I could not believe my eyes…” I immediately sent the vertiginous video to my wife. She didn’t reply. But I knew what I had just done. I’d created art. With my sunglasses and a little help from John Popper’s harmonica. 

“As a typical old person, I was afraid such a gadget would chain me to my computer or phone, forcing me to sink deeper into internet life. Instead, I had some IRL fun. And learned what IRL means.”

Suddenly my glasses were ringing—it was my wife. She does care! With a tap of the temple, we were talking. I went to adjust the volume and accidentally hung up on her. When I tapped again to get her back, Blues Traveler came back and I forgot all about the call. 

The shades and music made me want to get outside. So I strutted out into a dreary February New York day, light on my feet… now playing something I’d actually selected myself. Again, I’ve walked down a street listening to music plenty of times. But that was with earbuds. Earbuds are expected to play music for you. Boring. But when your sunglasses are playing music, there’s something about the novelty of that, which makes it doubly fun. As an added bonus, you don’t look like you forgot to remove your Q-tips.

As I soft-shoed past others—some in boring old dumb glasses—I smiled and covertly took pictures of them. Cause why not! On my smart stroll, I passed a Starbucks. Now, I’m usually not the type to drink fast coffee, but the world looks different through rose-colored smart glasses, so what the hell. As I ordered my coffee and breakfast sandwich, I stealthily snapped a photo of the cashier—“Did you just take a photo of me?” Not stealth. Turns out a white light goes off when you snap a photo. It’s a great idea. Keeps people from being creeps. But it is fun to secretly take pictures of stuff. Maybe I’ll put tape over that light… 

As I headed back to my office, delicious dark roast and egg white turkey bacon sandwich in hand, Spin Doctors (the album I selected) playing in my head, it dawned on me that what started as a product review became something more. Basically, these smart glasses taught me, in very short order, to embrace the world we’re in. Like a typical old person, I was afraid such a gadget would chain me to my computer or phone, forcing me to sink deeper into internet life. Instead, I had some IRL fun. And learned what IRL means. I realized that it’s easy to get stuck in our patterns and behaviors and—with technology changing at exponential speed— to become frustrated by the constant change. But there’s another way to see it. Which is, they’re making cooler and cooler shit all the time. Instead of getting frustrated by it all, we can try it out and accept that the world is and has always been changing. And that’s OK.  

That’s my philosophical review of the new Ray-Ban Stories. On a practical level—the functionality is great. They’re super easy to use, sync simply and seamlessly with your phone. I really enjoyed that they allowed you to skip forward or back on your music with a few taps, and easily adjust the volume so you don’t have to pull out your phone—features which other ear gears are noticeably lacking. I also look forward to jogging in these babies as they seem to fit snugly, another advantage over earbuds that often fall out on runs. And the photos and videos looked great. The only real downsides were: slightly teeny speakers (you might not want the whole world knowing you’re listening to the Spin Doctors); and I had to turn up the brightness on my computer super high so I could work in sunglasses. But wearing shades inside feels cool. Overall, I’m in. For all of it. See ya in the metaverse!