In my world, Christmas is for the nieces and nephews. February is when I get the gifts I really want -- for myself. And though they shipped from Italy during the slow-down, the wait for my new prescription Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses was well worth it.
You can't be a Gen Xer without feeling a pang of familiarity with Ray-Ban, the masculine-cool specs that showed up in movies like Top Gun, Easy Rider, Men in Black, and Terminator. It's not just for the boys (there's a Pinterest dedicated to lesbians in Ray-Ban Wayfarers) and the company first supported LGBTQ+ rights in 2012 with its 75th-anniversary "Never Hide" campaign. Ironically, this campaign did not feature any actual Ray-Bans, just two well-dressed gay men holding hands in the street, circa 1950.
Since I was bummed by the fizzled promise of Google Glass and it's too soon for Apple's new smart glasses (which are promised for 2022), I was eager for the potential of these Ray-Bans -- and they delivered. You can get them in 20 different combinations of frames and lenses (a very cool olive pair goes against the trends), including polarized and transition lenses. I went for black Buddy Holly-type Wayfarers with my regular prescription because I actually need glasses to see without falling in a ditch. The glasses are light, considering they have a battery that lasts six hours (and a cool plus: like with AirPods, the case is the charger). These Bluetooth-enabled smart glasses were developed by Facebook in partnership with EssilorLuxottica, the parent company of Ray-Ban, so you do need a Facebook account since it pairs with the Facebook View app.
I do, so I was set up in minutes taking photos and up to 30-second videos from my glasses, listening to the Wicked Gays podcast, and making a call. Via the app you can share content to Facebook, but also to other apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. The assistant feature on the glasses works via Messenger and lets you hear your messages read out loud (which I love while hiking) and send messages using only voice commands ("hey Facebook, send a message to Marcy"). You can touch the stems of the glasses or use your voice to stop, play, control volume, skip a song, or check battery life.
Privacy purists will decry that a Facebook account is required, and that it's often hard for people in front of you to know you're taking their photo (a very small light on front of the glasses indicates it). But since I believe our world has very little privacy as it is, I'm OK with all of that. And the fact that the world can't tell what I'm photographing? Well, for me, that's a main draw. No need to watch people stare and crowd around where I'm looking or scurry away from nature (thus screwing up my shot as they scare off the wildlife because they're worried about inadvertently being in a photo). I can just click a button or say a command and voila, the beautiful swan is in my camera uploads, with nobody the wiser.
No need for the phone (which these days only signals work with the beeps and bells of email, Slack, text, and ironically, Messenger). The hands-free simplicity of Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses aren't for everyone, but they are for me. ($299 and up) Ray-Ban.com
This article is part of Out's March/April 2022 issue, appearing on newsstands April 5. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.