Snapchat glasses make smart eyewear mainstream

Joel Hopkins, Reporter

When Snapchat was released in 2011, many pegged it as a fad destined to die quickly as many mobile apps do. Flash forward just two years to 2013, Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel turned down a three billion dollar offer from Facebook for the company. Now Snapchat, recently rebranded as “Snap Inc.,” has decided to branch out their focus away from just the Snapchat app.

Last week, Snap Inc. revealed their first product under their new name: a pair of video-recording sunglasses called “Spectacles.” The Spectacles will allow wearers to capture ten seconds of video, filmed with a 115 degree wide angle lens that imitates the human eye’s field of view.

The footage will sync right to the user’s Snapchat app through a paired iPhone or Android phone. The glasses will come with a price tag of $130, which may help push them into the hands of more users than we have seen with other similar products in the past.

Glasses with built-in cameras are certainly not unheard of, but there has never been a popular brand used by any decent number of people. Remember Google Glass? Granted, Google Glass was more of an augmented reality project, one of its big features was the built in camera.

That project is either dead or on hiatus now, depending on whom you ask. Since its failure, there has been a void in the market of wearable tech for your face, and some might say that there is a good reason for that.

Google’s pair of glasses never made it to a full commercial release. They fell off while still in a sort-of “beta stage.” Google Glass had quite a few issues, and its price point of $1500 left buying a pair out of the question for most. The failure of Google Glass left many thinking that “smart eyewear” just wasn’t going to catch on.

Cue the Spectacles.

According to studies conducted by digital marketing firm Omnicore, over 100 million consumers use the Snapchat app daily, and 70 percent of those users are under the age of 35.

At $1,370 less than a pair of Google Glasses, the Spectacles just might have a market. The glasses are reasonably affordable, and I imagine there’s a number of Snapchat users who are drooling over the idea of being able to record clips of their concerts or other outings now hands-free.

As with the release of anything new and strange, the Spectacles reveal brought out a number of party-poopers. These are concerned individuals who don’t like the idea of those around them wearing cameras. With the release of Google Glass and now with the reveal of the Spectacles, again comes the fear some have of being able to be filmed now without their knowledge.

Not to frighten anyone, but if someone was going to film you without you knowing there is nothing stopping him or her from doing that already.

After a quick Internet search for “wearable cameras,” in less than 10 seconds I found a pair of discreet looking sunglasses with a built-in camera. They record high-quality video and save it to a micro-SD card. They look nothing out of the ordinary, and they are only $50. If someone were to wear a pair of these, you likely wouldn’t notice. Judging from the pictures we have seen of the Spectacles, it would be impossible not to notice someone wearing them.

The camera on the Spectacles isn’t hidden, it even lights up when it is recording. This tones the “creepy” factor of wearing a camera down a bit. I imagine that if these glasses do make it to the mainstream, it won’t be a whole lot different than people wearing Go-Pro cameras in public like some do already. You might look goofy sporting a pair of bright sky-blue sunglasses, but at least those who don’t want to be filmed will know whom to avoid.

With a reasonable price point of $130, and a companion app that millions of users already know and love, the Spectacles just might have a fighting chance in a niche that has yet to produce something that sticks. Only time will tell, but someday soon we just might start to see Spectacles on the faces of those who laughed at Google Glass.


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