LOS ANGELES — There are big changes afoot for fans of Snapchat’s image messaging and multimedia app — or more properly “aface,” as the company rebrands itself and enters the world of wearable tech.
Based in Venice, Calif., and now known as Snap Inc., which calls itself “a camera company,” the Snapchat parent states that “reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate,” and notes “Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.”
To that end, it has spent the past few years developing a new type of camera that it calls “Spectacles.”
“Imagine one of your favorite memories. What if you could go back and see that memory the way you experienced it?” asks a company rep. “That’s why we built Spectacles.”
Youthful, fashion-forward sunglasses available in three different colors, Spectacles feature one of the world’s smallest wireless video cameras and connect to Snapchat via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to transfer user “Memories” directly into the app. According to the company, Spectacles can record “a day’s worth of Snaps on a single charge,” and recharge when placed into their custom carrying case. All for $130.
Tapping Spectacles records a 10-second video snap using an innovative new circular video format that boasts a 115 degree field of view, and plays full screen and “right side up” no matter how the viewer’s device is oriented — perfect for capturing comprehensive point-of-view (POV) video clips, and targeting today’s mobile users, where video screens (and viewing habits) are no longer “just a horizontal thing.”
While the 10-second per-clip recording limit will prevent the device from being used in long-form videos (with the exception of being used for added spice such as short cutaways and establishing shots, etc.), Spectacles will doubtless become a mainstay of adult content production and promotion.
Spectacle will be especially useful for performers building fan bases through social media — many of whom already use Snapchat as a marketing platform. The added motion and emotion of video will be a boon to performer- and personality-based verticals such as live webcams.
Also, the “cute” appearance of these glasses on a model will be less distracting than other attempts at sexy wearable tech, if seen from another camera’s perspective, and will be less creepy in public than other alternatives — a point that is not lost on many observers.
Indeed, previous “stealth cam” eyewear such as that offered by Pivothead, have been more discreet (and perceived as appealing to beach-strolling voyeurs) than the more blatant Spectacles, which many will immediately recognize as camera-equipped — and if anyone had any uncertainties, the bright ring of LEDs around Spectacles’ lens that light up while recording will remove all doubt as to what’s going on, while improving close-up image quality.
The device is also drawing comparisons to Google Glass, which suffered in some circles from having an “elitist geek” appearance, and although Glass was capable of recording video, it also had a raft of smart technology features that Spectacles is not targeting (at least for now).
Given this backdrop, the Snap marketing team is facing an uphill battle in making it seem cool to wear a camera on your face — especially an outward-facing camera — adding a challenge in a selfie-centered world.
The hope for sales comes from one of the top target audiences: GoPro users — users who are accustomed to wearing cameras, but perhaps seeking a more fashionable alternative suitable for certain circumstances.
Beyond these basics, Snap is hoping that Spectacles’ low price point will put it squarely in the affordable novelty or “toy” category, where the mass market will readily adopt it.
It is a strategy that should not be discounted, especially when you consider Snap’s market deftness: where many tech companies release a product and then hope to drive consumers to a supporting app, Snap built a successful app and then released a product to support it — flipping the usual path upside down — and providing adult content performers, producers, and promoters with an intriguing new tool in the process.
While no release date has been announced, Spectacles are expected to be available in time for the holiday shopping season.
“[Understand] that having a camera on your face has been a thing for a couple of years now, at least. But Spectacles are trying to look fun, and like something you’re wearing in public on purpose,” states a CNET report. “Spectacles seem more like party favors than permanent lifestyle decisions, but if people end up wearing them and not being mocked, Snap might have a victory for wearable face-tech.”
This perhaps may be Spectacles’ greatest legacy — becoming the device that made wearable tech cool, and a device attached to your face acceptable — both of which are necessary ingredients in driving virtual reality technology forward into the consumer mass marketplace, where non-gamers scoff at the notion of strap-on displays.