After endless rumors, Snapchat Spectacles was announced today and it is a fascinating development. It is a pair of glasses, priced at $130, that records 10 seconds of video. It is a world of difference from Google Glass at $1,500 and is designed simply as a social media device. But it may just change the landscape in Wearables.
In the flurry of news, the best account is in Wall Street Journal (thankfully for the moment not behind their paywall). They discuss Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel’s reasoning behind the device:
Why use a pair of video sunglasses—available this fall, by the way, one-size-fits-all in black, teal or coral—instead of holding up your smartphone like everyone else? Because, Spiegel says, the images that result are fundamentally different. Spectacles’ camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens, wider than a typical smartphone’s and much closer to the eyes’ natural field of view. The video it records is circular, more like human vision. (Spiegel argues that rectangles are an unnecessary vestige of printing photos on sheets of paper.) As you record, your hands are free to pet dogs, hug babies or flail around at a concert. You can reach your arms out to people you’re filming, instead of holding your phone up, as Spiegel describes it, “like a wall in front of your face.
Whatever you think of Snapchat as a social platform – there’s a lot of love and hate for it on the Web – this could be a game-changer for the wearable tech market. It may be just what we need to move beyond Smartwatches and the increasingly ubiquitous fitness bands.
A new approach to Wearables
As Mashable notes, Snapchat Spectacles is not a multifunction device. They are meant to be a fun digital accessory that serves the purposes of Snapchat. Here are five key points:
- Spectacles records in a new circular video format. You get ten seconds of video, though a tap will extend the time to 30 seconds.
- Not surprisingly, they are designed to connect to Snapchat. You’re out of luck if you are a diehard WhatsApp user.
- Spectacles come in three colors and charge automatically. The power management does what Google Glass failed to do. One charge will get you through a day and the glasses charge when they are placed in their case.
- They cost $130. Perhaps not the end of the world if you break or lose them.
- They are not what you would call a “toy” but they are toy-like. Though interestingly enough, Snapchat staged its initial marketing in the glossy WSJ Magazine (not so glossy online) echoing those early Glass fashion model spreads).
Obviously, Snapchat focused on overcoming the issues that doomed Google’s wearable. Whether or not the public takes to Snapchat Spectacles remains to be seen. They could take off like Pokemon Go, or disappear just as quickly as Glass, which is now a Glass at Work project. But keep an eye on the social media platform wars. They may soon evolve into a battle over wearables.
Today sunglasses, tomorrow your regular eyewear. As Maya Georgieva pointed out to me, beware your next corporate or classroom meeting. You never know what may surface later on Snapchat. Someday, every meeting may need to begin with, “Please remove your glasses.”
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.