One of my all-time favorite podcasts is Snacks Daily, daily digestible financial news presented by Robinhood Financial. The two quirky co-hosts cover all the latest financial news with pop culture referenced sprinkled throughout with wit and humor all packed into 15 minutes or less, perfect for commuting. This week, they covered a story about Luxottica, Ray-Bans’ parent company, and their announcement to launch “smart glasses” in partnership with Facebook by 2021.
Hugo Barra, VP Facebook Reality Labs Partnerships, tweeted a teaser video announcing the launch of their first smart glasses:
Beyond thrilled to finally share a sneak peek of our Facebook partnership with Ray-Ban! Our first smart glasses will launch next year, and that’s just the beginning… The future will be a classic and it's coming in 2021 😎 pic.twitter.com/l9992ZQGoy
— Hugo Barra (@hbarra) September 16, 2020
So, what does a collaboration between Ray-Ban and Facebook look like? The glasses are not expected to use augmented reality (yet), but rather include a camera for taking and uploading photos straight to Facebook, further blurring the lines between reality and social media. The smart glasses create a completely immersive and interactive customer experience by eliminating the need to take out a smartphone and upload content to social channels, and instead making social media even more accessible, and in real-time. Although Mark Zuckerberg has been pretty quiet about the details of the product, one would have to be wary of the consequences of data and privacy concerns regarding an intimate wearable piece of technology considering Facebook struggles with consumer trust as it is. How much more data does Facebook want to know about its users? It already knows age, birthday, gender, family members, relationship status, friend groups, tastes, interests, and hobbies. It’s both fascinating and terrifying to think about what else they can gather and infer from user data through its smart glasses product.
Facebook’s vice president of the Reality Labs division, Andrew Bosworth, said in a statement, “We’re passionate about exploring devices that can give people better ways to connect with those closest to them. Wearables have the potential to do that. With EssilorLuxottica we have an equally ambitious partner who’ll lend their expertise and world-class brand catalog to the first truly fashionable smart glasses” (Statt, 2020).
Although there is no arguing that this product would allow its users to connect even more easily, I can’t help but wonder about the consequences. Would it allow users to photograph those around them without their knowledge or permission more easily? Will AR be implemented to change purchasing habits? Does the technology extend itself to the customer experience in changing the way we ‘see’, ‘think’, ‘do’, ‘care’?
The Internet of Things gives retailers insight into customer behavior and can create more personalized customer experiences, “retailers who set up sensors around the store can use IoT customer data to offer personalized offers to individual customers in real-time to encourage maximum conversion rate” (Stevens, 2019). I would not be surprised if this was the first of many iterations of the smart glasses that completely changes the way humans interact and the even larger role that technology will play in helping us connect in a disconnected world.