Meta’s Ray-Ban Smart Glasses Fail to Catch On

Meta’s Ray-Ban Smart Glasses Fail to Catch On

Tech News

The Ray-Ban smart glasses launched by Meta Platforms almost two years ago have struggled to catch on with owners, many of whom appear to be using the devices infrequently, according to internal company data.

Less than 10% of the Ray-Ban Stories purchased since the product’s launch in September 2021 are used actively by purchasers, according to a company document from February reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Meta sold a total of 300,000 of the wearable devices through February, but the company only had about 27,000 monthly active users.

The device, an important part of Meta’s hardware strategy, allows users to take photos and listen to music with the frames of their glasses, among other features. It has experienced a 13% return rate, according to the document.

Among the top drivers of poor user experience were issues with connectivity, problems with some of the hardware features including battery life, inability for users to import media from the devices, issues with the audio on the product and problems with voice commands for the smart glasses, according to the document.

“We’ll also need to better understand why users stop using their glasses, how to ensure we are encouraging new feature adoption, and ultimately how to keep our users engaged and retained,” the document said.

A Meta spokesman declined to comment on the document.

Despite the poor initial numbers, Meta is hoping to release the second generation of its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses either in the fall—in time for the holiday shopping season—or next spring, according to people familiar with the matter.

The smart glasses were developed in partnership with EssilorLuxottica, which makes and sells numerous types of glasses, including brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley. A spokesman for EssilorLuxottica declined to comment.

The Ray-Ban Stories represent one of the most important partnerships for Meta’s Reality Labs division, which has accumulated an operating loss of nearly $8 billion in the first six months of 2023 and is expected to see its operating loss increase meaningfully in 2024, according to executives.

The company released the first version of the device about a month before changing its name from Facebook to Meta as part of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to build the metaverse, which is a version of the internet where users can interact with one another in real-time, virtual spaces. Other tech companies have struggled to make smart glasses, including Google, which discontinued its Google Glass product.

The new version is expected, like the current one, not to have features that would be categorized as augmented reality, which allows wearable devices to project or overlay content into what a person is seeing in the real world.

But Meta executives see the Stories device as a predecessor to augmented-reality glasses, which it hopes to release in the coming years. Apple recently showcased its Vision Pro AR headset at an event in June. Zuckerberg and other company leaders have said Meta’s work in this arena is essential to becoming a dominant player in what could be the next major computing platform to emerge.

The second generation of the Ray-Ban Stories will come with improved battery life and better cameras, and will be available on more models of Ray-Ban’s frames, the people familiar with the matter said. The smart-glasses technology is currently available on three Ray-Ban models.

The first generation of the Ray-Ban Stories starts at $299. Two versions of the glasses are currently listed at 30% off on the Ray-Ban website. It couldn’t be determined how the second generation of the product will be priced.

Meta plans to improve the quality of the device and how users discover its features, according to the document. The social-media giant set a goal of maintaining the ratings of the app used with the smart glasses at a 4.0 or higher on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, the document shows.

The app, called Facebook View, currently has a rating of 4.5 on the Apple App Store and 4.4 on the Google Play Store.

Meta set a goal of 478,000 unit sales for the entire lifetime of Ray-Ban Stories. Another forecast in the document also shows a lower figure, predicting sales of 394,000 units.

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