Mingle with the throngs of shoppers in my sleek new glasses, no one gives me a second look. But then again, why would they? These chunky glasses wouldn’t belong in the pages of a fashion magazine.
The thing is, I don’t really need glasses. I have perfectly good vision. But these are not glasses as you and I understand them.
Created by Facebook in collaboration with trendy brand Ray-Ban, they are equipped with tiny cameras and microphones – what some might call spyware.
And they allow me to take photos and film at will as I move through the streets of London and download images to my phone. No wonder critics fear these glasses are the gateway to a grim new reality, where privacy and security are just afterthoughts.
On public transport, outside a royal palace, in shops – even a medicine counter – inside locker rooms and public toilets, I am free to film, and no one seems to have the slightest idea. Other subway passengers do not pay any notice.
On the main street, I walk into TK Maxx, turn on the video with the touch of a finger, and ask the salesman where the coats are. She looks me straight in the eye and leads me to the back of the store.
They allow me to take photos and film at will as I move through the streets of London and download images to my phone.
Locker rooms are a growing point of controversy thanks to the transgender debate, but I’m free to walk around wearing what amounts to a video camera to my face. Of course, I disable my spy specs.
Then I walk into Boots and wander the aisles of the pharmacy, filming the shoppers around me choosing their cold and flu medications and browsing the shelves.
Sold as Ray-Ban Stories, the glasses are available online for £379. They can be activated with a simple tap of a finger or a simple voice command: “Hey Facebook, take a video”. The only clue of what’s really going on is a spike of light – just a little bigger than a poppy seed – next to the specs when recording is in progress. It’s hard to detect in normal light – and no one has. I feel a bit creepy.
I decide to up the ante. Security is tight at the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras, but heavily armed police pass without a glance. It’s the same story outside Charing Cross Police Station.
I can even film while strolling through the gardens of Kensington Palace, filled with embassies and close to the homes of many members of the royal family, including William and Kate. Photography is prohibited, the signs say. But how can anyone know what I’m doing?
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the spy specs are an “important step” on the road to merging reality with the internet. Glasses like these, he thinks, will soon be equipped with “augmented reality” which involves overlaying visual, auditory or other sensory information on the world to enhance one’s experience.
By projecting images of the web right in front of your eyes, Zuckerberg believes the next generation of eyewear will unleash the full potential of the “metaverse,” a bizarre – and much-hyped – digital universe that encourages people to live their private and professional lives. lives on screen.
Ray-Ban Stories aren’t the first smart glasses to hit the market, but the precursors, created by Google and Snapchat, were deemed a failure, thanks in part to their sci-fi appearance. The specs of Google Glass, for example, looked so odd that wearers were mocked and dubbed “glass holes.”
Discreet: Isolde in glasses at Kensington Palace, where filming is prohibited
The Ray-Ban Stories, on the other hand, are understated and attractive, thanks to the partnership with Ray-Ban, the Italian-American luxury brand that notably designed Tom Cruise’s aviators in Top Gun. The result is desirable glasses integrated with five megapixel cameras, three microphones and tiny speakers.
Tellingly, the Facebook logo does not appear anywhere on the glasses or their case. The only mention of the tech giant – now branded Meta – is on the cardboard packaging it comes in.
The Facebook View application, linked to the glasses, offers a single page inviting the wearer to “respect people’s privacy”. It remains to be seen whether this friendly advice will be followed.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says spy specs are ‘significant step’ on the road to merging reality with the internet
A spokesperson for Meta admitted that “with any new technology, it’s important to recognize that there will unfortunately be instances where people seek to use it inappropriately.” As technology evolves, we will continue to strengthen our privacy and security protections.
The movie and audio I record will be stored on Tech Company’s giant servers as soon as I upload them to Facebook, Instagram or any of their sites. And, as always with Silicon Valley secret societies, few of us know exactly what they will do with my data – and that of the hundreds of people I meet.
The app is said to be capable of collecting all sorts of information, from health and fitness to location, contacts and finances.
Back at the office, the high-quality images I saved automatically download to my phone. It’s crisp and clear. From there, I can share it on any site I like, apparently without needing to ask permission from the people on it. They don’t even know their faces are stored on my device.
Experts say this kind of wearable technology is here to stay – and it’s only going to get smarter. And more troubling, no doubt.