On 24th September of this year – Venice (California)-based Snap Inc (earlier known as Snapchat) announced that – they’ll be launching a totally new type of camera, which they like to call – Spectacles!
Yes! As the name suggests, “Spectacles”, launched by this millennial-friendly messaging service + social network + video hub, are nothing but one of their first move into the hardware industry!
Spectacles are nothing but sunglasses that are integrated video camera that makes it easy to create Memories.
One can shoot first-person video clips, or Snaps, that you can transfer directly to the Snapchat app, using these sunglasses. Snap has created one of the smallest wireless video cameras in the world that are capable of taking snaps worth a day on a single charge, which have been integrated into a fun and cool pair of sunglasses, that help you to take the feeds.
What if you could go back and see those favourite memories of yours? That’s the primary motive of building Spectacles!
Evan Spiegel (CEO, Snap Inc) had made and launched the product in quite an interesting way too!
In 2014, Snapchat had bought a start-up that made Google Glass-like eyewear that recorded video of whatever the wearer saw. It was called Vergence Labs! And soon Snapchat was seen to be recruiting hardware experts for a stealthy new project as well.
In 2015, Snapchat assembled also a team composed of scientists and software engineers that specialized in computer vision and machine learning, and began building Snapchat Research. Furthermore, the company also raised a total of $1.81 billion funding round earlier this year.
And eventually, on a quiet side street just off the beach in Venice (California) inside his office, Evan stood in a small conference room, in front a really small audience, holding a towel that was covering a mysterious object sitting on a table. In a full on dramatic scene from the movies – Evan asks: “You wanna see it?” And the towel is off, and – “Boom”!
Simple, yet stylish – Spectacles come in the same price range as a pair of Ray-Ban’s. At a price of $129.99, Spectacles is currently being launched with limited distribution, and won’t be relied upon for significant immediate revenue. They will be made available this fall! It’s being launched more off like a silly game for now, that would be used more like a toy at parties or outdoor concerts. They’re taking a slow approach to roll the product out them out, and want to understand where and how exactly, would it fit into people’s lives and seeing how they find it.
Having said that – there a side benefit to this as well! Instead of making the app a slave to your Smartphone’s built-in lens, Spectacles will empower them to control a physical camera.
Formally speaking – they are sunglasses that are integrated with world’s smallest camera which records video snippets that get saved to your Snapchat Memories.
It is a one-size-fits-all pair of glasses that will be made available in black, teal or coral colours, and will be coming with a camera that has a 115-degree lens that is somewhere close to how humans see. The video it records is circular, more like human vision.
These will be directly connected to your Snapchat app, and instead of holding up your smartphone like everyone else, the videos will be fundamentally different here.
Spectacles connect directly to Snapchat via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and transfer your Memories directly into the app.
The beauty of this app is that, even if you don’t have your phone, it will store all the snaps until you return to your phone. Meaning – you can use the glasses as a standalone device as well.
How to use them?
All you need to do is – tap the button on the top left-hand corner of the sunglasses to begin recording a snap! The recording will automatically stop after 10 seconds, but if you want to record more, then you can tap again to add another 10-second increment. The max that you can record up to is 30 seconds at a time!
And to know if the recording is on or not – you need to see the lights! The inward-facing light will turn on when you’re snapping, and the outward-facing light will turn on to alert anyone in your field of vision.
The Spectacles come with a one day battery life, and the outward-facing light is also a battery indicator, which will show you how much battery you have left.
Additionally, they come with a dedicated charging case and cable. When fully charged, the case can recharge your Spectacles up to four times.
How are they different from Google Glass?
As we all know, wearable cameras have existed for years in the market, and the most high-profile attempt made was by Google themselves, with Google Glass!
Let’s face it – Google Glass was not what we expected it to be! Google had promised the world. Revolution in many ways, by changing the way we view and share information! But, turns out – their product faced heavy criticism over privacy concerns, and intrusion.
Google’s loss may actually turn out to be Snap’s success!
To begin with – new technologies often fail the first time, only to become a hit there onwards (Take for e.g.: social network). Moreover, Spectacles are less than one-tenth the cost of what Google Glass was made for, making them much more accessible. And lastly, let’s face it – Google Glass was dorky, and Snap is cool!
Yes dorky! You can say what you want about this – but the fact remains that no matter how life-changing the technology is, you will not be able to convince a mass to use a headset resembling a cheap Star Trek prop.
Other than that – Google Glass wanted to put the experience of a smartphone inside a pair of glasses. This would not only lead to distracted conversations, since users would continually break eye contact to look at the tiny screen in the corner of their glasses, but this would also led to safety concerns, such as distracted driving.
Not only do Snap’s Spectacles look cute, but they’re discreet, oversized, colourful and impossible not to notice!
The genius of Snap was always the fact that you leave no permanent record of your photos and videos, which allows the users to be far more careless with what they upload.
And since, these are targeted specifically towards the younger generation––Someone who’d feel far more comfortable using these glasses to share their lives online, than their parents––this perceived impermanence is what may allow Spectacles to become a success!
Rebranding of Snapchat…!
Spiegel has seen to be rebranding the company, which has started with the change of the name Snapchat, to Snap! Further, they have also changed their Twitter handle to @Snap as well.
In June 2016 – Snapchat had acquired the domain name Snap.com and moved over to the corporate domain registrar and brand protection company MarkMonitor.com.
According to a blog post that the company released explaining the rebranding: -
They state that – the company has grown from being just an image messaging application (which started as Picaboo) to having several products including: Stories, Memories, Lenses, and so much more… The name – Snapchat Inc, made a lot of sense then!
But because they are now developing other products, like Spectacles, they needed a name that went beyond just one product, but at the same time, doesn’t lose the familiarity and fun of their team and brand as well.
Hence, they decided to drop the “chat” and go with Snap Inc!
Basically, the company has created a parent or an umbrella company and added two products to it – Snapchat.com and Spectacles.com, along with two different logos as well.
This only indicates that this is just the beginning and many more products are in line!
So, where exactly is Snap Inc heading with all this?
There was (and still is) a time when Facebook envied Snapchat for being able to get what they couldn’t. And even though, the offering (sharing imagery) was similar to Facebook and Instagram; Snapchat was very different.
On Snapchat, photos and videos quickly expire, making social media a far more causal experience. Celebrities also jumped onto Snapchat as well. And their numbers just seem to be growing too!
More than 60% of 13-to-34-year-old smartphone users are now on Snapchat. More than one billion Snaps are sent a day and 10 billion+ videos are watched. On an average a TV network in the top-15 manages to reach 6% of all 18-to-34-year-olds in the United States, while, Snapchat app reaches 41% of the same demographics, on any given day. A number, advertisers would kill for!
In attempts to capitalize on this, Snap also launched their ad business around 2015, and were selling ads through their “Discover” and “Stories” sections, along with their paid geo-filters and lenses too.
The situation has become such that, wherever eyeballs go, ad dollars follow. And now, this has become the heart of an ongoing brutal fight in the tech sphere right now!
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are all fighting for their slice of the time people spend looking at video on phones, because advertisers will pay a bomb to insert mobile video ads inside that content.
Since, Facebook warehouses so many people’s digital identities, its core pitch is that its wealth of user information allows advertisers to micro-target. For instance: if you wish to target a suburban, French-speaking woman who does not hold a degree and recently met with an accident, Facebook can help you find her—and serve her customized ads.
Snapchat is a natural recipient of TV ad dollars as those dollars move online. Snapchat doesn’t have this facility, and tends to know more general things about you (age, gender, location, whether your phone is iOS or Android, etc… It then counteracts this by functioning, from an advertiser’s perspective, more like television.
But when an advertiser buys on Snapchat, they can be assured that they would get access to very wide group of American youth, at a place where they spend a lot of time and come back to throughout the day. Irrelevant of the ownership of the content, Snapchat app autoplays clips one after another and slip ads in between, creating an effect very much like a TV commercial interrupting a sitcom.
They have also begun to ramp up their overtures to advertisers, with attempts to offer better feedback metrics and slightly more advanced targeting options.
This has further led to an increase in their valuation as well, which has jumped anywhere from $16 billion to $22 billion. Being the beginning of their advertisements, they made a paltry $59 million in 2015, but are estimating their 2016 revenues to be between $250 million and $350 million, which they further intend to take to $500 million and $1billion, by 2017.
Basically, Snap is heading towards adding more products under its wing, to gain more advertising revenue, and also to fight a competitor who wears a strong war chest!