Week in Review - Don't believe your eyes

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Saturday, September 11, 2021 By Lucas Matney

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, we  talked about Apple’s big screw-up. This week, we’re talking about how sunglasses will change the world.

If you're reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

the big thing

This week, the tech industry made a very small step firmly in the direction of a very unknown future. And it’s pretty clear that what comes next could revamp society in a way that makes the past 15 years of social web-led shifts seem quaint.

This week, I spent some time with Facebook's first pair of smart glasses, made in partnership with Ray-Ban. I reviewed them in-depth here, so give that a read if you’re very curious, but here were a few of my closing notes:

“…while we've certainly come a long way since the Google Glass debut in 2013, face-mounted cameras still feel icky when it comes to privacy in public and this device will undoubtedly reignite that conversation in a major way. Baggage aside, my broadest takeaway is that the Ray-Ban Stories feel like a very important product — one that actually sells the idea of face-worn wearables.

The glasses are smartly designed and can be worn discreetly. That said, it's clear Facebook made plenty of sacrifices to achieve such an aggressive form factor; the glasses honestly don't do anything particularly well — photo and video quality is pretty lackluster, the in-frame speakers perform poorly outdoors and calls aren't the most pleasant experience. For $299, that might make the first-generation a tough sell for some. But all that said, I think Facebook mostly made the right compromises for a product that they've repeatedly indicated is meant to be a stepping stone on the road toward an augmented reality future.”

Like I said above, feature-wise they are really nothing all that special. BUT, they were also the first device that I’ve tried in years of covering AR, VR and face-computing that didn’t make me feel like an absolute weirdo in public. That’s a massive barrier for a product class like this to cross, even for a simple-featured device without AR/VR capabilities.

It also made everything feel a bit less theoretical on the privacy/ethics/slippery slope front.

I walked all throughout San Francisco with these on my face this past week, including into indoor spaces like grocery stores, and even though I wasn’t recording anything most of the time, I never seemed to get a second glance from anyone. But I had a computer on my face with cameras, microphones and speakers connected to the web. That discreet ability felt oddly empowering.

Though we’re still clearly a few years from devices like these catching on in earnest, the fact is that every trillion dollar tech company has an AR glasses-led future firmly on their radar — with Apple and Facebook in particular barreling towards it. Chances are this stuff is actually going to be a full-fledged thing this decade.

What’s also apparent is that we aren’t even prepared for the broader societal adjustment that happens when millions of these dinky Ray-Bans actually end up on people’s faces — putting cameras an inch from their eyes and further tearing down barriers between the public world and public web. What comes when there are transparent screens in those glasses altering the world around the wearer?

We’ve tasted plenty of the web’s impact in the past decade, but societal change caused by the web still seems like its at the bottom of a hockey stick and everything could shift very quickly very soon. It’s a reason to be very excited about the internet’s future, but should also be a cause for major concern as we see existing and rising stakeholders grow even more powerful. It’s a lot to think about over a pair of dumb little smart sunglasses, but the future moves quickly and everything starts somewhere.

the big thing image

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other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Facebook unveils first product from Ray-Ban partnership
I gave you the privacy ramifications above, but here are some details on the actual Ray-Ban Stories frames themselves which start at $299 and come in a bunch of different renditions.

What we’re expecting from next week’s Apple event
Next week, Apple is all but assured to show off a new Watch, new iPhones and a couple new surprises. My colleague Brian has a great explainer on exactly what we’re expecting from the $2 trillion consumer tech king at its big event on Tuesday.

Food delivery apps sue New York City
While California and NYC take on gig economy startups and aim to regulate their businesses, the major players are fighting back. This week, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub banded together to sue the city of New York over a law that would permanently limit the commissions the apps could charge restaurants in the city.

SEC wants to regulate Coinbase’s next big feature
Coinbase went on the offensive this week, claiming that the SEC was threatening to sue them if they released a new product aimed at yield-generating lending — the company is pissed because plenty of other exchanges have products like this already, but going head-to-head with a new administration’s SEC certainly seems like a bold maneuver.

Ransomeware hackers take down an American university
There’s been an epidemic of ransomware attacks in recent years and it’s only gotten worse as more organizations move more segments of their businesses online quickly. This week, Washington, D.C's Howard University was forced to cancel classes after ransomware hit the school’s systems.

other things image

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Have ‘The Privacy Talk’ with your business partners
“…It's the conversation that goes beyond the written, publicly posted privacy policy and dives deep into a customer, vendor, supplier or partner's approach to ethics. This conversation seeks to convey and align the expectations that two companies must have at the beginning of a new engagement…..”

Anatomy of a SPAC
“…Like many digital disruptors seeking to upend established industries, Better was born out of one person seeking to solve a problem for himself. Sometime around 2012 Vishal Garg, founding partner of One Zero Capital and founder of the online student lending company MyRichUncle, was hoping to buy his "dream home" but got hung up during the process of securing a mortgage and lost out on the bidding to a buyer who could close the deal faster.

Debt versus Equity
“… Entrepreneurs trying to raise funding for their new businesses are faced with a maze of options, with most taking the common route of equity rounds. There's clearly a lot of venture money to be raised — and most tech entrepreneurs happily take it in exchange for equity. This works for some, but too often founders find themselves diluting their equity to unrecoverable portions rather than considering other financing options that allow them to hold on to their company — options like debt capital…..”

extra things image

Image Credits: Apple (livestream)

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