By SELENE SAN FELICE
Snapchat rules our generation. If this isn’t obvious from the millennials you see taking dog-face selfies and swiping for geotags everywhere you go, it’s about to be. On Sept. 23 Snapchat’s chief strategy officer Imran Khan announced the company is rebranding to Snap Inc., as they’ve become “bigger than just one app.” To further this point Khan revealed Snap’s newest creation, Spectacles.
For $129 a pop, Spectacle users can record up to 10 seconds of circular video from a first person vantage point that they then upload to Snapchat via Wifi or Bluetooth. Pushing a button on the hinge activates the 115 degree angle lens, which is larger than the typical smartphones. The glasses will be available this fall in black, teal or coral.
Why spend so much to take circular videos when rectangular ones have always been free? To start, Khan says the Spectacles’ shape and position offer the closest recreation of the human perspective. Rectangular photos that we see and capture with our phones are meant to mimic printing, and that’s so over. Spectacles are also hands-free, allowing the user to participate more in the photo-sharing experience. You can pet your dog while showing everyone how cute it is, hug bae while annoying all your followers and weep into your hands after the glasses slip off your face and get stomped on at Coachella.
If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, you may be thinking of that time way back in 2013 when Google released Glass, one of its few failures. Google Glass(es) also fit snugly on the face and could record first person video, but because of their nerdy appearance and impracticality at the time the product crashed and burned. Production of Glass stopped in early 2015.
Snap Spectacles and Google Glass may sound similar, but Spectacles seem to come from a much smarter angle. Part of Google Glass’s downfall was the product’s failed attempt at having an incognito appearance. Using as little material as possible, users were somehow not supposed to be drawing attention to the computer on their face. Consumers also found it creepy that the glasses showed no warning signs of recording to those around the wearer. Snap Spectacles on the other hand, are by no means subtle. Ignoring that they look ominously like an invention straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory, Spectacles are supposed to be cool. The product is being marketed as a “toy” for millennials, and its bright, thick rims are bound to pop up at just about every music festival set this summer.
But before you demand Santa put Spectacles in your stocking this Christmas, know they might not be as easily accessible as Google Glass was at first. Snap is testing the waters with a limited release before making the product widely available.
“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” CEO Evan Spiegel explained at the announcement. “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”
The world might not have been ready for Google Glass, but now that constantly sharing pictures and videos is the norm, Spectacles have arrived right on time. By 2019 wearables are predicted to be a $25 billion market, according to research firm CCS Insight.
Along with Spectacles and their rebrand, Snap also announced Snap to Unlock, a twist on scannable QR codes that should similarly garner success from an old idea. Companies can now advertise with snap codes like those friends use to add each other on the app. Universal Pictures was the first to test this with mysterious billboards for their new movie, Girl on a Train.
As it stands alone, Los Angeles based Snapchat is only five years old and has 150 million daily users, 110 million of which come from the U.S.,Canada and Europe, according to Adweek. Whether that many people will be as eager about Spectacles as they were for Snapchat is unclear, and so is the prospect of Spectacles trapping us in our smartphones and using blueberry face filters to turn us into real blueberries. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Selene San Felice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org