When I first saw the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses a few weeks ago, I noticed something. In the event space that Meta had so carefully prepared, there was a wall showing the different frames, colors and lenses. It was meant to visualize all the different style options; in fact, more than 150. But standing about 10 feet apart, they all blended together.
For the most part, my hands-on experience with the Meta smart glasses was better than I expected. Photo and video quality improved dramatically thanks to the new 12 MP camera. Weaknesses like audio leakage seemed to be fixed because they now have five microphones instead of one. The sound quality was also better and it supported spatial audio. You could go live with them! After a few demos, this was a device I could imagine a content creator or home video enthusiast purchasing.
I just didn’t like how I looked in the two pairs I tried. One was the Wayfarer and the other was the new rounded Headliner. While Wayfarers are a classic and popular style, there are still many people who No They like their appearance. On me, the bold black frames dominated my face and, paired with clear lenses, my eyes looked smaller, something I feel self-conscious about. Of course, it was a short demo and it’s possible he just wasn’t used to them. But if I didn’t like either of the two frameworks available, would it matter to have 150 variations? This would not be a problem at Zenni Optical. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of frames to choose from, in different materials, colors and lenses. It may take me a while, but know I’m going to find something that makes me feel good when I look in the mirror.
Limited style options were a problem I’ve had with every pair of smart glasses I’ve used, from North’s defunct Focals to the Bose Frames and almost all Google Glass prototypes. (YO looks like a total jabroní in Bose Frames Tempo.) This is because smart glasses, generally speaking, are difficult to get right. They must provide a compelling use case, incorporate enough technology to ensure they work well without being cumbersome, and they must look good. I have trouble naming a company that has done all three.
The thing is, if you’re mass producing a device, the human body is kind of the enemy. No two faces or visions are the same. Low nose bridges, strong prescriptions, astigmatism and face shapes are all things you need to accommodate. At the same time, it’s up to wearable device makers to look for designs that work for “most people.” While that works with phones, tablets, and even smartwatches, it’s less effective for something you wear on your face. Again, just because most people look good on Wayfarers doesn’t mean everyone wants to use them.
When I used the Razer Anzu For testing, I thought they fit me well. My spouse hated how they made me look. The nicest thing my friends and colleagues said to me was: “I don’t hate them.” Vanity may be a sin of pride, but if the eyes are windows to the soul, I want my glasses to be an attractive pair of curtains. The Razer Anzu would have had to be as necessary in my life as a smartphone so that I could dedicate myself more to function than form. They were not. I now wear a pair that my spouse and I like, and the Anzu are collecting dust in a drawer.
That’s why it’s a problem that all smart glasses tend to look the same. Not everyone will like how a wide, square, thick frame will look on them. You could have the most powerful smart glasses ever, but that spells disaster if people don’t want to use them.
I hate to say it, but if smart glasses ever become popular, looks matter. Companies must offer people as many options as they would find online or at their local optical store. The parable of Google Glass underscored the lesson that extravagant design (and dubious privacy) evokes ridicule. You’ve probably never heard of Epson moverio glasses because you would never get a date wearing them. You probably forgot about Echo Frames, not only because you don’t need to put Alexa on your glasses, but also because the design is completely forgettable.
That’s why, of all the smart glasses I’ve seen so far, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses might have a chance. At $300, they are pricey but on par with regular Ray-Bans. This time, there’s a clear use case: hands-free video that you’d actually share on social platforms. Socially, privacy remains a concern, but the TikTok era has also turned everyone into potential content creators. For better or worse, every time I go out, I assume I’ll be an extra in someone else’s life reel. And although 150 variations are still not enough to achieve all If you want a pair, there’s a better chance of finding a combination you like than if you only had two or three options total.
Style aside, at the end of the day, these glasses still need to perform and perform well. So despite my reservations about how I see myself in them, I’m cautiously optimistic that, unlike the Anzu, the upgrades might encourage me to stick around. I won’t know for sure until I get my review unit, but I’m looking forward to finding out.