Let me get this out of the way — I’m a huge fan of wearable tech. I love my smart watches, smart rings, and just about any piece of tech I can have on me at all times. Owing to this, smart glasses have always intrigued me. Back from when Google Glass was a concept to now being able to view content on a large 100-inch display using AR glasses, I’m a fan of how the tech has progressed over the years. So naturally, when I got to review the Ray-Beta Meta Smart Glasses, I was thrilled.
You see, I love capturing moments with my smartphone regularly. Whenever I’m out and about, I pull out my smartphone to snap a shot or two. This is exactly why the Ray-Ban Meta glasses intrigued me so much.
Having a camera that’s always outside and ready to capture reduces the friction of removing my phone out of my pockets every single time. Combine this with all the additional smarts like a built-in speaker and an AI assistant and the Ray-Beta Meta has become my favorite gadget in recent times. So much so that I don’t wanna take ’em off! Let me elaborate.
Looks Like Any Other Pair of Sunglasses
Smart glasses with cameras aren’t new. In fact, the Google Glass, I mentioned earlier was first introduced a decade ago. However, the biggest issue with it (apart from the exorbitant price tag) is how it looked. Anyone with a pair of Google Glass looked like a walking cyborg. And for an accessory meant to be worn on your face, that’s definitely not the look you’re going for.
Soon after though, the Google Glass was scrapped. Thereafter, several brands have tried their hand at making smart glasses. Snapchat made a few attempts with its Snapchat Spectacles project but none of them took off. In fact, a couple of years back, Meta partnered with Ray-Ban to launch the Ray-Ban Stories. While it nailed the design aspect, the camera quality was average and did not justify the price tag.
Fast forward to a few years later, and the two companies have partnered yet again. This time, the result is the Ray-Ban Meta glasses. It retains the same design as the last iteration but introduces fine refinements that allow you to wear them like any other pair of shades on a regular basis.
Wayfarer or Headliner
Ray-Ban sells two variants of the Meta glasses — the classic Wayfarer style that Ray-Ban is famous for, accompanied by the Headliner. I have the Wayfarer variant with its ageless look. At first glance, the glasses look just like any other typical pair of shades. Upon closer look though, you will realize there is some hidden tech in the glasses thanks to the thicker-than-usual stems and frame.
Given the added thickness, the glasses are also heavier than usual. If you wear a standard pair of prescription glasses, you will surely notice the added weight when you have the Ray-Ban Meta glasses on. With extended use, your ears may feel slightly weighed down by the glasses. However, this is something I got used to in about two days.
The people around me also happened to notice that the glasses were larger than usual. This could be attributed to the fact that I have the XL variant of the frames. Ray-Ban also sells a Large version which is slightly smaller and should fit most people.
There are a few colors in which the Ray-Ban Meta glasses are available. While I have the matte black version, I like the Blue Jeans variant with its translucent sides. Both sides of the stem have the Ray-Ban branding giving the glasses a premium look.
Colored or Clear Lenses
Just like the frame, the Ray-Ban Meta is also available in a range of lens options. You can pick them up with clear lenses with blue light protection, polarized lenses for outdoors, or even transition lenses that change colors when you’re outdoors.
By default, my unit came with transition lenses that are clear indoors but change to a black hue when the Sun’s rays hit them.
However, since I wear prescription glasses, I switched out the default lenses to ones that suit my myopic eyes. If you’re in any of the regions where Ray-Ban has officially launched the Meta glasses, you can get prescription lenses directly from them. However, I live in India where the product hasn’t launched yet.
So, I headed to a local optician and got custom lenses made. Since the frame uses a standard shape and size, I had no issues getting custom lenses. Moreover, the existing lenses simply snap out, and replacement ones snap into place.
There are no screws or complex mechanisms. Kudos to Ray-Ban for this design since it makes it easy for anyone to swap the lenses.
Intuitive and User-Friendly Controls
The right stem has a single button in a position where you would generally hold the glasses to adjust them on your face. A single click captures a photo by default. Pressing and holding the button starts recording a video. You can interchange the functionality within the Meta View app which is exactly what I did since I found myself capturing more videos than photos using the glasses.
Additionally, the right stem also has a touch-sensitive pad for gestures. You can perform various taps on this section to trigger various functions. A single tap can play/pause music, a double tap can accept calls, and a press-and-hold action activates the Meta AI voice assistant. All of them are extremely responsive and I haven’t had them fail on me even once. That’s impressive.
Moreover, the gestures feel natural and not forced. The placement of the button is also where your fingers naturally go so there’s no learning curve at all. Both Meta and Ray-Ban have nailed the controls on the glasses.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Looking at the glasses from the front won’t immediately reveal the camera. The left end of the glasses has a tiny camera sensor with a symmetric dummy on the right. The cavity on the right is essentially an LED that turns on every time you capture a photo. When recording a video, the light pulsates throughout the duration of the recording.
This is an excellent feature that protects the opposite party’s privacy. When recording in public, anyone can look at the LED and tell you’re not wearing a standard pair of shades.
In broad daylight though, one may find it hard to view the LED — especially from a distance. To Meta’s credit though, another cool feature baked into the glasses is the detection of any obstruction to the LED.
If you try to cover up the light, the camera won’t capture a picture or video. There’s also a physical kill switch that turns off the camera entirely. These small inclusions make me believe Meta has put in thought when designing these glasses.
The brand has paid close attention to privacy which is nice to see given how Meta hasn’t necessarily had the best track record in this regard.
Additionally, there’s also a notification LED on the inside of the glasses that turns on whenever you’re recording. You can view it from the corner of your eye to determine when the camera is recording and when it has stopped.
Ray-Ban Meta: Photo and Video Quality
The primary reason you’re getting the Ray-Ban Meta is to capture photos and videos. So, they better be good, right? Well, there’s some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good one.
In broad daylight, the Ray-Ban Meta’s 12MP shooter captures excellent colors and dynamic range. I was blown away by the footage captured by the glasses when I first took a look at it on my phone. For a camera sensor this tiny, I must say I’m impressed with what Meta has done.
A brief chat with Meta’s product designers revealed the impressive camera output can be attributed to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 chipset powering the Ray-Ban Meta.
While I wouldn’t say the colors in photos are realistic, they are social-media-ready with a good amount of pop. Even when recording videos, I noticed the stabilization to be top-notch. The footage captured by the glasses seemed more than usable with little to no micro jitters.
In fact, I posted a story straight from the glasses onto my Instagram account and several of my followers reached out to me saying they were impressed by the video quality. Moreover, the audio picked up by the five different mics onboard is also impressive.
The camera on the Ray-Ban Meta is a lot like a mid-range smartphone from back in the day. It fairs well in broad daylight but suffers when there’s no natural light. Once the Sun sets, the Ray-Ban Meta’s photos and videos start getting noisy and grainy. When recording videos, the stabilization also takes a hit resulting in a lot of jitters when walking.
If there are a lot of bright artificial light sources, things get a bit better. But, if you’re in an environment like a club or pub where the lights are generally dim, you’re going to be disappointed by the Ray-Ban Meta’s output.
This can be attributed to the small sensor size and narrow aperture. It’s more of a technological limitation than anything else since you can’t fit a larger sensor in such a tiny space. At night, the Ray-Ban Meta becomes a standard pair of glasses with added smarts in the form of an AI assistant and a speaker.
For those wondering, the Ray-Ban Meta shoots vertical videos that are best suited for short video platforms. I personally wish there was an option to switch to horizontal 16:9 video but I’m not sure how they would achieve that. Also, the IPX4 rating means you can snap away even when it’s raining outside.
Just like Siri or Google Assistant, the Ray-Ban Meta has a built-in voice assistant called Meta AI. You can trigger the AI by saying “Hey Meta” followed by a command or query. Initially, I thought Meta AI was more of a supplementary feature to the cameras that I won’t use much. But boy was I wrong.
Once I set it up, I realized how convenient it is to get simple tasks done using my voice — that too without pulling out my smartphone. The most frequent use case for me is to call someone or send a message. All I have to do is say “Hey Meta” followed by “Send a message to Mom saying I’m picking up milk and some vegetables on the way.”
While I can technically do this using my Apple Watch as well, the entire process with the Ray-Ban Meta is so natural. I don’t have to lift my hand and speak into my watch. I can go about my work and get Meta AI on the glasses to work without moving a muscle.
Another absolutely cool way to use Meta AI is to ask it to snap a picture and send it to someone. I was at the grocery store when my friend Supreeth asked me to pick up some cookies. So, I stood in front of the cookies aisle and said “Hey Meta, snap a picture and send it to Supreeth.” I also asked him which ones he wanted. The glasses clicked what I was seeing and quickly sent it to Supreeth.
Supreeth then responded with the cookies he wanted which the glasses read out to me. How cool is that! Remember, all of this took place without me having to get my phone out of my pocket which is fantastic.
Additionally, the onboard speakers and mic were handling all the audio exchange so I don’t have to wear headphones all the time either. The speakers are also quite nice and rest right above your ears. However, there is some amount of sound leakage as expected.
I’m all about making my life simpler using technology. And this level of seamless integration is what I absolutely love and appreciate.
Endless Possibilities With AI
Having a camera on you all the time opens doors to so many cool accessibility features. It could be used to guide blind users in the right direction, or you can translate a signboard in a different language. In fact, Meta has a feature coming out early next year where you can look at something like a monument and ask Meta for more info about what you’re looking at.
A few years down the line, it’s crazy to think how much the tech would’ve matured with better cameras and improved AI models.
Using the Meta View App
The Ray-Ban Meta glasses connect to your smartphone via the Meta View app. Notably, the app is only available in the US, UK, and a few other regions where Ray-Ban officially sells the glasses. So, if you’re outside these regions like me, you will have to resort to other means of downloading apps not available in your region.
Once downloaded, the app facilitates the pairing of the glasses with your phone via Bluetooth. You can use the app to change settings, import media, and post photos and videos shot from the glasses straight to Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform of your choice.
One can even live stream to Instagram directly via the Ray-Ban Meta which is a cool feature. If you’re traveling and you wish to stream from a first-person PoV to your audience, it’s now easier than ever.
It’s worth noting that the glasses need not be connected to your smartphone in order to capture photos/videos. Once you connect the glasses to the app, the recorded media will be imported to your phone’s local storage. The import process is smooth and quick. This is mainly because file sizes are small and videos, by default, are capped at 60 seconds in duration.
The Meta View app lets you choose from 15, 30, or 60 seconds of video recording at a stretch. This has been done mainly to optimize the video-capturing glasses for short video platforms like Instagram Reels, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.
All the AI isn’t restricted to the voice assistant. The Meta View app has an automatic montage feature that combines selected photos and videos to form a short video. There’s no manual editing involved so you don’t have to put in any effort.
Stylish Carrying Case
A handsome pair of glasses deserves to be carried in a premium-looking case. And Ray-Ban doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
The Ray-Ban Meta is accompanied by a classy vegan leather carrying case with the Ray-Ban branding and a circular LED on the front that indicates battery levels. Yes, the carrying case also happens to be the charger for the Ray-Ban Meta glasses.
Battery Life and Charging
Between the nose pads, you’ll find contact pins that align with the ones inside the case. Meta claims the glasses can last for about 4 hours worth of camera usage. While I didn’t test that claim directly, I tried something else. Can the glasses be worn for an entire day? Can I wear them till go to bed without draining the battery? Turns out, I can!
Now there are a few caveats though. I wake up, put on my glasses, and start going about my day. When it’s time to shower, I put my glasses inside the case for a quick top-up and wear them again once I’m done. I take a few short calls during the day via the glasses and watch a couple of videos on my phone with the audio coming out of the speakers. In the afternoon, I take a short nap and that’s when the glasses go back into the case for yet another top-up.
Once I’m up, the glasses are back to 100% battery so I can use them comfortably till I go to bed. It’s worth noting though that throughout this period, the camera on the glasses isn’t being used a whole lot. But, if I head out or I’m on vacation, I’m sure the battery will die much faster as I would use the cameras a lot more to capture photos and videos.
The fact of the matter is I can live with this battery life. The charging case can juice up the glasses 7-8 times so I’m pretty much covered for an entire week. If there’s one caveat, it’s the fact that I now have to worry about charging one more thing every day — something that I didn’t expect — my glasses.
My Favorite Gadget of the Year
I reviewed the Insta360 GO 3 earlier this year — another wearable camera that can record some awesome PoV footage — and said it was one of my favorite gadgets of 2023. Well, looks like the Ray-Ban Meta has dethroned the GO 3 to become the best piece of tech I’ve used this year. Not only does it capture excellent photos and videos in good lighting but Meta AI has made my life a lot easier. It’s something I never thought I wanted but now that I have it, I don’t want to stop using it.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Add all of this to the fact that the Ray-Ban Meta brings some of the best generational improvements to a gadget. The last-gen Ray-Ban Stories were mediocre at best which meant they weren’t for most people.
However, I’m confident recommending the Ray-Ban Meta to pretty much anyone involved in the social media frenzy. Starting at $299, they aren’t too much more than what you would pay for a standard pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses anyway. So if you’re comfortable having a camera made by Meta with you at all times, the Ray-Ban Meta gets a solid thumbs up from me.
Last updated on 08 November, 2023
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