snap incs spectacles

Wearables

Can Snap Inc’s Spectacles avoid Google Glass’s fate?

Lara Williams

Lara Williams, Editor-at-large

What makes Snap Inc’s Spectacles different to Google’s attempt at smart glasses?

Snap Inc. may have had high-brow techies scoffing when they first announced their foray into hardware last year, but after taking home three gold medals for design and a bronze for UX interface at Cannes Lions 2017, perhaps it’s time to start taking them seriously.

This month, Snap Inc’s Spectacles were released in the UK. Essentially a pair of glasses that take photographs, how can we be sure they won’t go the same way as the ill-fated Google Glass?

CEO Evan Spiegel summed it up when he told WSJ: “Because it’s fun.”

Quirky, kitschy and quintessentially millennial

snap incs spectacles

Source: Snap Inc.

Used by 158 million people worldwide, Snapchat has become the app of choice for millennials and teens and, in just a few years, has fundamentally changed the way we communicate.

Unlike the polished perfection of Instagram, the app’s disappearing photos encourage a more ad-hoc approach – ugly selfies, funny filters and the ability to record and share your daily experiences in the form of stories.

Aimed at generations obsessed with social sharing and the experience economy, the concept caught on and users began communicating not with words, but visually, with pictures and video.

Known best for its kitschy puppy and rainbow-vomiting face filters, the app is anything but serious and their new Spectacles reflect this in more ways than one.

Differences to Google Glass

Available in three colour-ways – black, coral and teal – the Spectacles thick frames and bright colours give them a funky retro-feel. While perhaps a look that wouldn’t appeal to everyone, they have a sense of style Google’s cyborg-esque Glass did not.

Their overt nature might well appeal to people too. A big problem with Google Glass was the fact you had no idea what the wearer was doing. Were they checking their emails? Getting directions? Or secretly filming you?

With Snap Inc’s Spectacles, there’s only one answer to that question – they’re using Snapchat. An L.E.D light even tells others when they’re recording. While it doesn’t completely end the concerns people have over surveillance, at least there’s no secrets.

There’s also a big difference in price-point, while Google was charging £1,000, these will only set you back £129.99. While still pricey for what the CEO calls a ‘toy’ – they’re about equal to the cost of a pair of Ray-Bans.

A focus on UX

Light-hearted nature aside, the Spectacles didn’t get bronze in the UX interface for nothing. Whilst fundamentally simple, they’re designed to make using them as joyful as they look.

One press of a button on the side of the frame records a 10 second video, leaving the wearer hands-free to continue with their activity.

Videos are then automatically transferred to the ‘memories’ section of the app. ‘Memories’ is an apt way of describing the footage. Due to it being filmed from your p.o.v. and 115-degrees wide, it mimics human perception and therefore looks like snippets direct from your memory – reliveable through Snapchat.

Their Snapchat-yellow carrying case doubles up as a wireless charger. Again, this simplifies the process – allowing users to charge up on the go and use their glasses at their destination for example.

snap inc spectacles carrying case

The singular use, to take Snapchat videos, coupled with its slight silliness, is precisely what Fastcompany’s Mark Wilson thinks will make it outperform Google Glass: “Rather than attempting to disguise the wearable as a normal pair of glasses, or position it as a serious product, the company is embracing the sensational side of the concept.

“It’s an approach that sounds a lot like its app: if there’s one company that’s capable of making you look like an idiot in public for fun–making faces at your own camera and totally not caring that you do–it’s Snap.”

Millennials are all about experience, and rather than being an invasive wearable computer, Snap Inc’s Specs are about helping make the sharing of those experiences as streamlined and unintrusive as a pair of funky glasses can be.

While it’s yet to be seen if they’ll take off, it’s clear that the app has avoided the same pitfalls as Google.

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