Through Ray Ban Meta glasses, I stared into the city, and the city stared back at me

Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses reflecting Times Square on author's face
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I didn’t think Pasta Man would talk to me. Wearing Ray-Ban Meta glasses and recording a video, I was an onlooker. Pasta Man had other plans. He talked to me; of course he did. Blocks from Times Square, making cheesy pasta at a food stall - he knows he’ll be on videos. I wasn’t ready for the ways that wearing smart glasses would change my New York City experience, but the City was definitely ready for me. 

When you read about smart glasses or see them in use, you think that it’s all about the camera and sharing photos to Facebook. I haven’t shared a single photo to Facebook yet, even though Qualcomm sent me these Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses two weeks ago. 

Mostly, I listen to music. They aren’t as good as the best earbuds I own, but they’re nice for listening to music on a dog walk, or strolling from my train to my office in the morning (it’s already too dark at night to wear sunglasses on the way home). 

The speakers stay relatively undetectable except in the most stern surroundings. In my talkative office, co-workers couldn’t tell if I was listening to music.

Wearing a creepy camera on my face

Then, of course, there is the camera. It is creepy to wear a camera on your face. I feel that creepiness. I enjoy taking photos but I’ve never been a fan of street photography because I hate the idea of pointing my camera at a stranger.

With the smart glasses, I took the shot. When I take a photo or record a video, a light turns on. It’s bright enough that others can see it. The Ray-Bans look like they have two camera lenses, but actually, the right side is a light. It isn’t bright enough to act as a flash, so the purpose seems to be to tell everybody that I’m recording.

With that in mind, I decided to shoot freely. I took photos of whatever I liked. I work near Times Square, one of the most heavily photographed locations in the world.

The Famous Naked Cowboy of NYC Times Square

Clearly this town wants to be photographed (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

A strange thing happened. Some people smiled. People waved. Not just the dudes dressed like Batman and King Kong, Normal people playing guitar or smoking a cigarette under a streetlamp in a poetic fashion. They saw me and they smiled, or kept about their business. Nobody got angry.

The light is very self-explanatory. When my glasses gave them a warning light, they presumed that they were on camera, even if they didn’t know that camera glasses were a thing.

Cheese Wheel Pasta is made to be on camera

Then I found Pasta Man. In Bryant Park, behind the Public Library on FIfth Ave, there is a winter village with food stalls. One of the food stalls makes pasta: “Cheese Wheel Pasta.” OMYUM.

They blow torch a gigantic wheel of grana padano cheese. Pour on vodka that is set ablaze. Swirl it around until a cheesy sauce melds. Toss in fettuccine and swirl it until it is coated. Add fresh pepper.

They do this in a red food stall in the middle of NYC. The theater of it is the entire point. You can get cacio e pepe anywhere, but here you get a TikTok video to go along with it.

When I started recording, my light came on. I thought I’d watch Pasta Man cook pasta. Pasta Man squared his shoulders. He spoke to me confidently: “How are you?” In New York City!? We don’t just … GREET people here!

We need to be camera ready all the time now

Ever been caught on camera unexpectedly? It’s disconcerting. It’s hard not to stammer, or sound awkward if you don’t practice.

I stammer. Not Pasta Man. He knows just what to say. “Would you like some?” He’s talking through me, to my audience. Pasta Man is ready to make your pasta, whether you’re a local walking through Bryant Park or watching TikTok via your favorite influencer.

I worried about feeling embarrassed. I worried about being intrusive. I had it wrong. Smart glasses photography is participatory. You aren’t taking the photo, you are part of the photo.

Ray-Ban meta glasses up close

This is just what faces look like now, accept it (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The good news is that people are ready. We’ve all seen this coming. If you do anything interesting, people record you. We are more ready for this moment than I imagined.

Soon, everyone will wear a camera on their face everywhere. So what? We’re used to it. In fact, smart glasses are going to be more polite, because I’ll have a shining light that lets you know I’m recording.

With smart glasses, I’ll look you in the eye and talk to you directly when I’m recording, and you can just talk back. I can use my hands and be part of the scene in ways never possible before. I thought smart glasses would change the way I record. They may also change the way we feel about being recorded.

You might also like

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.