The company behind the ubiquitous Snapchat app has reimagined itself just in time to release a nifty new piece of tech called Spectacles in the fall. Half-sunglasses, half-video camera, this wearable computing gadget promises Snapchat lovers a new way to make sure that their friends can witness every moment of their day, one that is potentially even more obnoxious than whipping out a smartphone.
Evan Spiegel, 26, is the founder of Snapchat and CEO of the newly-formed Snap Inc., which has billed itself as a “camera company” on its brand new website. Spiegel had been cagey about spoiling the surprise behind about his latest project, but recently, the social media wunderkind offered a glimpse as to what Spectacles entail.
Here’s what we know: Spectacles allow wearers to record whatever they’re looking at by simply pressing a button on the glasses themselves, not unlike something James Bond might do. Videos record in ten-second intervals, just like the Snapchat app, and can be instantaneously uploaded to your Snapchat Memories. A light on the front of the Spectacles alerts bystanders that you’re recording – no stalking for you.
The camera inside of Spectacles employs a 115-degree-angle lens. This, Spiegel claims, allows Spectacles to approximate the way human eyesight works much better than a smartphone camera. In addition, the hands-free nature of Spectacles gives Snapchat aficionados free reign to do whatever they want while their video records. Charging is as easy as putting the Spectacles back into their case.
Don’t expect to see swarms of teenagers wearing Spectacles any time soon, even if the whimsical accessory catches on like Snapchat did. Snap Inc. has set a fairly lofty price point of $129.99, just expensive enough to deter casual consumers from scooping up a pair on impulse. The company also plans to avoid flooding the market with Spectacles by limiting production, possibly to prevent embarrassment if they turn out to be a dud.
Spectacles represent a drastic departure for a company that has existed purely in cyberspace since its 2012 inception. It also represents a bold foray into the wearable computing field, a move that notoriously burned tech goliath Google when it tried, and failed, to make Google Glass happen. However, Snap Inc. seems to have keenly learned the lessons that Google ignored a few years ago.
Google Glass launched at the exasperatingly high price point of $1,500. While it may have been justified, asking people to cough up what is essentially a rent payment or two went over like a lead balloon. Spectacles seem downright thrifty in comparison. Furthermore, the idea of Google Glass felt creepy: who would feel comfortable knowing that the creepy guy sitting across from you is wearing glasses that are always recording (or so it seems)? Spectacles alleviate this problem with 10-second, view-once-and-they’re-gone videos that are obvious when they’re being recorded.
On top of the PR problems that Google Glass suffered, they were also widely considered to cause fashion emergencies. They’re butt ugly; there’s no other way to put it. Meanwhile, Spectacles feature a retro-funky, colorful design that is likely to appeal to its built in audience of Snapchat-addicted devotees – another factor that Google Glass lacked.
While Google failed to make headway into the social media game no matter how hard it tried, Snapchat seems to have the world’s youth in the palm of its hand. In a world where high school and college students’ reputations have become inextricably linked with their social media personas, Snapchat reigns supreme for one reason: messages eventually disappear. Younger users, highly aware of how a scandalous Facebook photo can tank a person, trust Snapchat to fulfill their visceral need to overshare while also keeping their future prospects intact.
This is the demographic that Snap Inc. seems to be targeting when it rolls out Spectacles just in time for the holiday season. Having clearly taken a few pages from the playbook that Google Glass wishes it had followed, Snap Inc. seems poised to make a splash in the fledgling wearable computing market if all goes to plan. Although Snapchat is struggling to make money, Spiegel does not intend to leverage Spectacles as his path to untold riches, but the new product could certainly help lay the foundation of his company’s ever-growing empire.