If you haven’t heard of Snapchat’s Spectacles, they are the newest venture from the prime social media platform for millennials. In essence, Spectacles are sunglasses which can be worn by anyone, and which contain a camera that can capture 10 to 30 second videos, as seen from the standpoint of the person wearing them. Thus far, they have been made available in several appealing colors such as teal, coral, and black, all of which announce their intentional fun appeal.
Spectacles connect to your smartphone through Bluetooth, and will automatically upload all videos which have been recorded. This will give you the chance to browse through all footage captured for the day, so that your favorites can be picked out and added later on to Snapchat. The real appeal of Spectacles is that the wearer is not even conscious of the fact that there’s a camera involved, as all events are automatically captured in these brief videos.
The camera actually records 360° of action, so when played back all films can be viewed from any angle, simply by rotating the phone to see other views. This gives the user a much greater sense of a direct point of view, and the emotional impact is far stronger than it would be from any images or videos taken by your mobile phone itself.
History of Spectacles
Despite its stunning capabilities, Spectacles has not been a huge hit with Snapchat users thus far. In its original release of Spectacles, Snap Inc. lost approximately $40 million on unsold pairs, with literally hundreds of thousands of them remaining in warehouses. Since the original release, Snap has been constantly tweaking the Spectacles to create slight variations, and none of these have quite captured the imagination of Snapchat users either.
However, Snap is convinced that Spectacles is a winner and has stuck by them, intending to launch a new version of Spectacles with a better design, a sturdier aluminum frame, and two cameras instead of the original single one. By using the twin camera approach, it will be possible to overlay AR lenses and create 3-D images from videos taken by the Spectacles.
This is actually a step which is intended to bring technology closer to Snap’s grand vision of producing eyewear technology which integrates virtual objects with real world objects. Although the new release of Spectacles will not quite be able to achieve that, it is definitely a step in that direction.
The new Spectacles
This newest version of Spectacles will cost more than double the price of the original version at $350, and Snap is aware that this is a somewhat risky venture, even given the fact of its greatly enhanced capabilities. The plan is to produce far fewer of them during the initial launch of the Spectacles, so that demand can be assessed and the risk of a huge loss can be minimized.
The path forward for Spectacles is definitely trending toward layering augmented reality objects over real-world objects, but this has already proven to be a tough nut to crack. Facebook is working on its own version of glasses which overlay AR objects as well, but it has predicted that achieving that capability is still five to seven years off in the future. If Facebook, with all its vast resources, considers that AR-enabled glasses are still five to seven years away from becoming a reality, it seems pretty likely that Snap is at least that far away as well from producing Spectacles which can overlay AR objects onto a real world view for users.
Future of Spectacles
Despite the fact that it lacks the resources of social media giant Facebook, it’s still conceivable that Snap Inc. could beat Facebook to the punch when it comes to producing AR-enabled glasses. It is considered at least possible that Snap could receive financial support from a Chinese social media powerhouse called Tencent, which has already produced its own version of smart glasses, and which bear a striking resemblance to Spectacles.
The interesting point here is that Tencent is already an investor in Snap Inc. which makes it at least a possible partner if not a likely one, for pooling resources to develop more capable glasses. Although not generally known in America, Tencent is so huge in the Chinese market that it is considered the largest social media network in that country, and at various times in the past, its market cap has even outstripped Facebook’s.
Future of Snap, Inc.
What makes this possibility so enticing is the fact that if Tencent did actually collaborate with Snap Inc. on the development of AR-enabled glasses, then any new versions of Spectacles produced by Snap Inc. would not be restrained by the limited resources of the company itself. In addition to that, collaboration with Tencent would also mean that the market for Spectacles would travel beyond the boundaries of this country, penetrating Asian markets as well.
One social media platform owned by Tencent is called WeChat, and it has more than 1 billion users, making it an ideal test market for any new versions of Spectacles produced by Snap Inc. Industry experts in fact, have speculated that this is the real reason why Snap Inc. continues to experiment with different versions of Spectacles, even after experiencing mostly failures in the past.
If Tencent were to join forces with Snap Inc. to develop a really outstanding version of Spectacles that people would actually use, it could be a huge boost to both companies. While Snapchat remains a very popular app, the fact is that its user base has been steadily declining in recent years, and the company could use something which gives it a very strong boost. While no one can predict exactly what the company has in mind for Spectacles, it might very well be that the continued experimentation with the AR-enabled technology is intended to provide that kind of boost to company fortunes.
If the newest release of Spectacles catches on with the public and proves to be a winner, that would seem to increase the likelihood of collaboration with Chinese giant Tencent. And if that happens, the five to seven year development timeline for AR-enabled glasses could be drastically shortened, and some powerful new Spectacles might be made available to ecstatic users.