Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that the company is launching more hands-free features for its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses. Starting today, Ray-Ban Stories users can make calls, hear message readouts and send end-to-end encrypted messages with WhatsApp. Meta added similar functionality for Facebook Messenger last year. Zuckerberg also announced that users will soon be able to directly reply to Messenger or WhatsApp messages with voice commands.
With this new update, users can make calls and send messages on WhatsApp hands-free by saying “Hey Facebook, send a message to…” or “Hey Facebook, call…” You can also listen to new messages you receive on WhatsApp. Once you get a new message, the glasses will say: “New message on WhatsApp from <name>: Is now a good time to talk?” In a future update, Meta plans to add the ability to directly reply to incoming messages on Messenger and WhatsApp, hands-free by saying: “Hey Facebook, reply” after the glasses read out a new message.
The company notes that your personal messages and calls are automatically secured with end-to-end encryption, which means WhatsApp, Meta and third parties can’t read or listen to them. After the voice assistant identifies a voice command related to WhatsApp calling or messaging, the voice transcript and audio is not stored on any server.
Meta also say it plans to expand WhatsApp and Messenger support for French and Italian speaking Ray-Ban Stories users this year.
Today’s update is rolling out to both the Facebook View iOS and Android app in phases and will be available to everyone in the coming days. Meta says users should make sure they have the latest app update and firmware on their glasses.
Meta debuted its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in September 2021 in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica. The glasses allow users to snap photos and videos with the two onboard 5 MP cameras, listen to music with in-frame speakers and take phone calls. The glasses need to be connected to an iOS or Android device for full functionality, though users can take and store hundreds of photos or dozens of videos on the glasses before transferring media to their phones via Facebook’s new View app. The twin cameras allow users to add 3D effects to their photos and videos once they upload them to the app.
The smart sunglasses come in three classic Ray-Ban styles, with a number of color and lens combinations. The Ray-Ban Stories are fully compatible with prescription lenses. The glasses start at $299, with polarized and transition lens options available at a higher price point.
At the time of the launch, Meta indicated that the device was a stepping stone for its AR ambitions and an effort to get users acquainted with the idea of high-tech glasses.
The launch of the new features comes as Meta is said to be scaling back its plans for its AR glasses, according to a recent report from The Information. The company reportedly had originally planned to launch the first version of its AR glasses, which are codenamed Project Nazare, in 2024. However, employees have been notified that Meta no longer plans to commercially release the AR glasses due to efforts to cut back on heavy investments in its Reality Labs and AR/VR division. The company plans to instead use the first version of the AR glasses as a demonstration product, as opposed to a commercial one. Meta is now planning to prioritize the release of the second version of the AR glasses, codenamed Artemis.