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New ‘smart’ glasses address (some) social dynamics

As Ray-Ban releases its new Meta smart glasses online and in stores, a researcher finds that its features may save it from the fate of Google Glass,

The next-generation Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses collection went on sale for customers to buy online and in stores last week. 

The new glasses feature improved audio and cameras, which has raised concerns that they will suffer the same fate as Google’s infamous Glass product. It inspired such antagonism, that its users were known as glassholes, and were often physically assaulted for using them in public. They were widely seen as both a fashion faux pas and as an invasion of privacy.

Now, a researcher has shown how new features will help Meta avoid such derision.

Jenny Fu, postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, studies the impact of AI-mediated communication tools on people’s emotional and social well-being. Her recent research explored how smart glasses impact interactions between the wearer and another person and found that the Ray Bans’ technology features actively shifted the dynamics of interactions.

“The Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses have several features that can lead to positive social interactions between wearers and bystanders,” she said. “Their multimodal interaction design with audio and light will enhance both privacy and bystanders’ psychological safety during social interactions, because bystanders will be aware of the technology and the potential for video recording. 

“The design of open-ear speakers, rather than bone conduction, demonstrates that audio notifications can inform not only the users, but also the bystanders during interactions, both indoors and in the outside world.

“It is worth noting that the glasses also introduce novel behaviors, such as swiping back and forth when the user is interacting with the glasses, which can raise bystanders’ awareness and introduce unforeseen dynamics in social settings.” 

She said that, In a recent study, bystanders expressed concerns that they were not sure if wearers’ interactions, like swiping, were towards them or not. They also expressed concerns about the uncertainty of how they were being perceived by the wearer and the possibility of being recorded.

In other words, Ray Ban may be better at putting the smarts in glasses, but it may not be enough to save the wearer from the public.

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