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Facebook’s path to wearables will be a tough climb


Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) took their first steps into everyday wearable technology. Last week, the company announced Ray-Ban sunglasses called Ray-Ban Stories that will incorporate Facebook technology.

On the surface, the glasses with cameras, microphone and speakers seem to be aimed directly at Snap’s (NYSE: SNAP) Spectacles, which really pioneered the concept of wearable eyewear. And given that both companies are interested in augmented reality (AR), they may be moving towards AR. But the reality is that today’s Facebook glasses are more of a competitor to Apple‘s (NASDAQ: AAPL) AirPods, and they show why wearables can be a bigger lift than the tech stock giant would like.

Image source: Getty Images.

Facebook Ray-Ban

The Stories sunglasses made by Ray-Ban will cost $ 299 and include a number of tech features. Users can:

  • Capture photos and videos.
  • Make phone calls.
  • Play music.
  • Use voice control with Facebook Assistant.

Glasses must connect to the Facebook View app, which is a separate app specifically for glasses that can connect to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

It should be noted that these are not AR glasses as some had anticipated (including myself). Looking at the list of features, I would say they are probably more comparable to AirPods built into sunglasses than AR glasses.

Facebook’s biggest problem

The challenge Facebook faces in transitioning from a social media software application to a computer hardware company is that it does not have the main operating system. Whether you’re putting on a virtual reality (VR) headset or a pair of Ray-Ban Stories glasses, you need a smartphone to get started. This makes Apple’s iOS or the alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Android a key cog in the ecosystem.

This is especially evident when Facebook wants to add features like a voice assistant to the glasses. It requires another app to run (and probably the app needs to be open). AirPods, on the other hand, work with Siri as soon as they’re connected.

Facebook is clearly trying to create its own virtual reality ecosystem, and that could eventually extend to augmented reality glasses. But for now, the glasses depend on the iOS and Android operating systems to function, which will hamper part of the user experience.

Facebook plays the long game

As much as I’m skeptical of this iteration of the Facebook glasses, it’s not the end for Facebook. The company takes what it has learned in video, audio and voice from other products such as VR headsets and puts them in a pair of glasses. I expect the company to continue to build on this knowledge and add technologies like AR over the next several years.

I don’t see Ray-Ban Stories being a big seller for Facebook; it’s more of a starting line for everyday wear. The big unknowns are whether or not customers want a product like this and whether other big tech companies will join the eyewear market. For now, Facebook has the first-mover advantage and a compelling video and audio product with Ray-Ban.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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