Meta’s Smart Glasses will get a sci-fi upgrade soon, but they’re still not smart enough

There's a certain allure to smart glasses that bulky mixed-reality headsets lack. Meta's Ray-Ban Smart Glasses (formerly Stories), for instance, are a perfect illustration of how you can build smarts into a wearable without making the wearer look ridiculous. The question is, can you still end up being ridiculous while wearing them?

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses' big upcoming Meta AI update will let you talk to your stylish frames, querying them about the food you're consuming, the buildings you're facing, and the animals you encounter. The update is set to transform the wearable from just another pair of voice-enabled glasses into an always-on-your-face assistant.

The update isn't public and will only apply to Ray-Ban Smart Glasses and not the Ray-Ban Meta Stories predecessors that do not feature Qualcomm's new AR1 Gen 1 chip. This week, however, Meta gave a couple of tech reporters at The New York Times early access to the Meta AI integration and they came away somewhat impressed.

I must admit, I found the walkthrough more intriguing than I expected.

Even though they didn't tear the glasses apart, or get into the nitty gritty tech details I crave, the real-world experience depicts Meta AI as a fascinating and possibly useful work in progress.

Answers and questions

In the story, the authors use the Ray Ban smart glasses to ask Meta AI to identify a variety of animals, objects, and landmarks with varying success. In the confines of their homes, they spoke full voice and asked Meta AI. “What am I looking at?” They also enabled transcription so we could see what they asked and the responses Meta AI provided.

It was, in their experience, quite good at identifying their dogs' breed. However, when they took the smart glasses to the zoo, Meta AI struggled to identify far-away animals. In fact, Meta AI got a lot wrong. To be fair, this is beta and I wouldn't expect the large language model (Llama 2) to get everything right. At least it's not hallucinating (“that's a unicorn!”), just getting it wrong.

The story features a lot of photos taken with the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, along with the queries and Meta AI's responses. Of course, that's not really what was happening. As the authors note, they were speaking to Meta AI wherever they went and then heard the responses spoken back to them. This is all well and good when you're at home, but just weird when you're alone at a zoo talking to yourself.

The creep factor

This, for me, remains the fundamental flaw in many of these wearables. Whether you wear Ray-Ban Smart Glasses or Amazon Echo Frames, you'll still look as if you're talking to yourself. For a decent experience, you may engage in a lengthy “conversation” with Meta AI to get the information you need. Again, if you're doing this at home, letting Meta AI help you through a detailed recipe, that's fine. Using Meta AI as a tour guide when you're in the middle of, say, your local Whole Foods might label you as a bit of an oddball.

We do talk to our best phones and even our best smartwatches, but I think that when people see you holding your phone or smartwatch near your face, they understand what's going on.

The New York Times' authors noted how they found themselves whispering to their smart glasses, but they still got looks.

I don't know a way around this issue and wonder if this will be the primary reason people swear off what is arguably a very good-looking pair of glasses (or sunglasses) even if they could offer the passive smart technology we need.

So, I'm of two minds. I don't want to be seen as a weirdo talking to my glasses, but I can appreciate having intelligence there and ready to go; no need to pull my phone out, raise my wrist, or even tap a smart lapel pin. I just say, “Hey Meta” and the smart glasses wake up, ready to help.

Perhaps the tipping point here will be when Meta can integrate very subtle AR screens into the frames that add some much-needed visual guidance. Plus, the access to visuals might cut down on the conversation, and I would appreciate that.

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OpenAI’s impressive new Sora videos show it has serious sci-fi potential

OpenAI's Sora, its equivalent of image creation but for videos, made huge shockwaves in the swiftly advancing world of AI last month, and we’ve just caught a few new videos which are even more jaw-slackening than what we have already been treated to.

In case you somehow missed it, Sora is a text-to-video AI meaning you can write a simple request and it’ll compose a video (just as image generation previously worked, but obviously a much more complex endeavor).

An eye with the iris being a globe

(Image credit: OpenAI)

Now OpenAI’s Sora research lead Tim Brooks has released some new content generated by Sora on X (formerly Twitter). 

This is Sora’s crack at fulfilling the following request: “Fly through tour of a museum with many paintings and sculptures and beautiful works of art in all styles.”

Pretty impressive to say the least. On top of that, Bill Peebles, also a Sora research lead, showed us a clip generated from the following prompt: “An alien blending in naturally with new york city, paranoia thriller style, 35mm film.”

An alien character walking through a street

(Image credit: OpenAI)

Content creator Blaine Brown then stepped in to embellish the above clip, cutting it to repeat the footage and make it longer, while having the alien rapping, complete with lip-syncing. The music is generated by Suno AI by the way (with the lyrics written by Brown, mind), and lip-syncing is done with Pika Labs AI.

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Analysis: Still early days for Sora

Two people having dinner

(Image credit: OpenAI)

It’s worth underlining how fast things seem to be progressing with the capabilities of AI. Image creation powers were one thing – and extremely impressive in themselves – but this is entirely another. Especially when you remember that Sora is still just in testing at OpenAI, with a limited set of ‘red teamers’ (testers hunting out bugs and smoothing over those wrinkles).

The camera work in the museum fly-through flows realistically and feels nicely imaginative in the way it swoops around (albeit with the occasional judder). And the last tweet shows how you can take a base clip and flesh it out with content including AI-generated music.

Of course, AI can write a script as well, and so it begs the question: how long will it be before a blue alien is starring in an AI-generated post-apocalyptic drama. Or an (unintentional) comedy perhaps?

You get the idea, and we’re getting carried away, of course, but still – what AI could be capable of in just a few years is potentially mind-blowing, frankly.

Naturally, we’ll be seeing the cream of the crop of what Sora is capable of in these teasers, and there have been some buggy and weird efforts aired too. (Just as when ChatGPT and other AI chatbots first rolled onto the scene, we saw AI hallucinations and general unhinged behavior and replies).

Perhaps the broader worry with Sora, though, is how this might eventually displace, rather than assist, content creators. But that’s a fear to chew over on another day – not forgetting the potential for misuse with AI-created videos which we recently discussed in more depth here.

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ChatGPT touches down on smartwatches – and it looks like a sci-fi dream

ChatGPT continues its march across the tech industry as it reaches a new frontier: smartwatches. Fitness brand Amazfit has revealed it’s going to be adding the generative AI as a feature on its GTR4 device.

Looking at a recently posted demo on LinkedIn, ChatGPT will be listed as ChatGenius in the GTR4’s menu, and from there, you can ask it whatever you want. The video shows someone asking how they can improve their running performance. Then in just a few seconds, ChatGenius responds with a several paragraph answer which you can read in its entirety by turning the watchface crown. Tap the screen to erase the previous response and you can ask a new question. You can even ask ChatGenius how your day was and it’ll tell you how many steps you took plus your current heart rate.

Beyond the demo, there’s very little information out there on how ChatGPT will work on the Amazfit GTR4. Other reports claim you can ask generic questions like the weather forecast or traffic, just like any other smartwatch. It’s also unknown which other Amazfit devices will even get the feature. The video alludes to ChatGPT support depending on the watch model and your location, with the United States being the only confirmed region at the time of this writing. 

We reached out to Amazfit about the availability of ChatGPT support as well as what else it can do. Can it, for instance, show different types of data or is it limited to just a few things? This story will be updated if we hear back. 

First-party support

The fact that Amazfit was able to beat out the tech giants in adding first-party support for generative AI to a smartwatch is a big accomplishment. The closest thing to ChatGPT on something like the Apple Watch is a third-party app called watchGPT for the Apple Watch. It works pretty much the same way. You open the app, ask a question, and you get a several-paragraph response. However, there are some notable differences.

For starters, you have to pay $ 3.99 to use it whereas Amazfit’s feature is free. But you can “share the outcome of your interaction” with other people either through text, email, or social media messages.  It’s unknown whether or not the GTR4 can do the same at this point. Either way, Amazfit has managed to break boundaries before anyone else. We think it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Apple or Google eventually add first-party generative AI support to their own smartwatches. The tech is already on browsers and search engines, after all.

Be sure to check out TechRadar’s recently updated list of the best cheap smartwatches for the year if you’re in the market for one. 

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