Snap, the company formerly known as “Snapchat,” on Saturday announced sunglasses that take videos through a built-in camera in the frame — bringing to mind Google’s controversial Glass product.
Snap’s Spectacles let users take 10-second videos by tapping a button on the top left-hand corner of the eyeframe. Users can tap on the record button to record another 10-second segment. They can record videos up to 30 seconds long in all.
The videos can be stored locally or transmitted over WiFi or Bluetooth to Android and iOS devices.
The spectacles can run for one day on a charge, according to Snap, and are recharged by placing them in their case.
Spectacles will be available later this year for US$130, including the case. The glasses will be offered in black, teal, and coral.
“There’s a huge audience of Snapchat users who want to share what they see and do live with people very quickly and, hopefully, these Spectacles will deliver on that experience,” said Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.
However, Spectacles “are going to be a curiosity piece for the time being,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The most devout Snapchat users will probably glom onto them first, but I’m not sure what’s in the cards beyond that.”
Shades of Google Glass
Spectacles connect directly to the Snapchat app on users’ smartphones, and the videos are stored in the service’s Memories feature.
The camera takes circular videos with a 115-degree field of view.
The videos play full screen on any device in any orientation, Snap said.
Lights on the outside and inside of the frame alert both subjects and users that a video is being recorded.
“Typically, devices like this work best as a time machine,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“It’s really handy for most non-staged shots,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The Spectacles immediately bring to mind Google Glass, which caused Google no end of trouble. The headgear stirred strong opposition from privacy groups. Some bars, restaurants and other businesses serving the public banned them. Some users were violently accosted.
Google Glass folded last year, and the concept is being reworked in Project Aura.
“Expect the privacy advocates to go crazy over [Spectacles],” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.
The establishment of “no Spectacles zones” and possibly physical altercations may be triggered when people begin wearing and using Spectacles, IDC’s Llamas predicted. “Snap users will have to learn where they and can’t use them.”
The Spectacles concept “is a good one, but I don’t think [Snap] have learned lessons from Google Glass, or they’d have made these more subtle,” Enderle suggested.
The glasses “are kind of silly looking and are meant to look that way,” Jude told TechNewsWorld. They “won’t resonate in the work space, and certainly not in the professional work space,” but are priced right “to find buyers in the teener/tweener generation.”
Cool Enough for School?
At $1,500 a pair, it’s likely that cost was one of the issues that doomed Google Glass.
Snap’s Spectacles, however, “are less expensive than a video game system or VR rig,” Enderle pointed out.
“Every morning when I go past the local Starbucks, the place is packed with high school kids,” Frost’s Jude noted. “When you consider that a latte at Starbucks costs $5, if they can afford that kind of a caffeine habit, they can afford [Spectacles].”
However, it doesn’t seem likely that Spectacles will become a must-have wearable, in Enderle’s view, as “there are lots of better-looking camera glasses and camera headsets in the market that just haven’t taken off.”
Still, “with kids you can never be sure,” he said, “and the unique connectivity to Snapchat may make the difference with this set.”