Once upon a time
In November 2014 Snapchat quietly added another company to a growing list of acquisitions, Vergence Labs. Vergence unlike other acquired companies was working on hardware (Epiphany Eyewear), glasses which could subtly record video. The genesis for Spectacles.
Spectacles allow you to make ‘memories from your perspective’ using a 115-degree lens to capture 10 second footage which is synced wirelessly (via bluetooth & wifi) to your phone. Units are being sold in limited quantities for $129.99 through vending machines (Snapbots).
The experience is comparable to opening a first generation product from Apple. There are obvious parallels in the attention to detail that unifies hardware & software, a few rough edges where improvements can be made and those surprises you find as you begin to use the product for the first time.
My thoughts when I started using them.
- A magnetic charging cord that snaps to the case, o000 yeah!
- A decent case, better than you expect, the case charges, pretty awesome, it holds multiple charges, ace! It has a beautiful charging indictor, 🚀!
- Syncing via bluetooth, honestly, its pretty janky, however the glasses can create a wireless access point and export in HD, hot diggity 👯!
- The glasses look decent, expected, for $129 the glasses feel solid, literally, the arms don’t wobble, they have really comfy little nose pads, and maintain a tight form factor (no bulky-ness). now replacing my go-to’s 🕶!
- Circular video, yea sounds cool, phone in hand watching the video and rotating the phone? wow it feels good to rotate snaps with the orientation of the phone, I like!! 👌
Some of the less attractive things
- As a cyclist, I’ve been riding and going over 25km I begin to tear up. Spectacles do a terrible job with airflow 🚴
- Export, awesome, the circular format of the exported HD video?, doesn’t add value for me, I get the circle for rotation on device but not for exporting 🤔
- Resolution, watching an exported HD video, I want to see higher quality video, but concede that its a good first step.
Spectacles are the beginning of something pretty cool (maybe not quite 😎 yet).
They have a great product experience, but most importantly they embrace their primary purpose — they are made to be great sunglasses.
- Decent looking — fashion has clearly been part of the creation process.
- No bulky-ness (they are slim)
- Good pricing
Great sunglasses mean Spectacles will be worn. In general, wearables face a retention problem, you can see this by statistics like one in 10 American adults owning some form of activity tracker, but half of them no longer use it. If Spectacles become a daily wearable, provide a great experience, they are likely to become a device which will drive daily engagement on Snapchat.
Wearables present an interesting opportunity for Snap to explore daily behaviour (e.g. increase the 150m daily active users), understand how these devices change behaviour, and extend the Snapchat experience.
While Spectacles may not become a mainstream wearable device, I believe it’s the first step of many in exploring wearable devices that extend experiences which blur the lines between reality & virtual reality.
Original employee’s at Vergence Labs, Rodriquez, Brook & Meisenholder are said to still be working at Snap on the Spectacles team and Snap Labs, a secretive division working on other hardware and software products.
I think there’s great potential in the displays we’re researching to absolutely erase the lines between virtual reality and real reality,” Rodriguez told Stanford’s college newspaper in 2013.
I’m looking forward to seeing that future!