The Joy of Spex? Snapchat introduces Spectacles

“Punk rock Palm Pilot” isn’t a phrase one hears much—in fact, Google search has never heard it—but maybe it’ll apply to Snapchat’s new $130 Spectacles, due to arrive soon. First, here’s how they work: 

What do you think?

As someone with no dog in this fight (i.e. these really are my thoughts, not Google’s), a few observations:

  • If Google Glass was the Apple Newton of the wearable capture space (complex, ambitious, unsure of its key purpose), what will be the Palm Pilot (simpler, cheaper, laser-focused)? But this being Snapchat, they’ll bring a healthy does of punk ethos/social lubricant. “Or not, whatevs!”
  • They’re keeping initial expectations low. “Spiegel refers to it as a toy, to be worn for kicks at a barbecue or an outdoor concert” (WSJ).
  • They’re trying to reduce creepiness by providing social cues. “Lights show friends you’re Snapping” is important, but so is the fact that these are sunglasses—better suited to outdoor, public shooting than, say, creeping around in bars. (Side bonus: This helps manage low-light expectations for the small, inexpensive camera.)
  • It’s not (yet) for broadcast. “Wirelessly add your Snaps to Memories on Snapchat.” Note that it doesn’t transfer them directly to your shared Story. This almost certainly stems from the lack of  People don’t share because they fear embarrassment—oversharing, looking foolish, revealing too much. Largely forgotten apps like Instagram Bolt & Taptalk “improved” upon Snapchat by making it possible to launch, capture, and share in two taps—but that gain in speed (saving one tap) wasn’t worth the loss of control.
  • Apparently it generates a new “circular video” format (demo) that is always cropped when displayed on phones, requiring you to rotate them to see everything. Hmm—color me skeptical about that. People keep phones in portrait orientation something like 92% of the time, and Snapchat’s vibe has been all about embracing laziness & apathy, not making people invest effort. But I’ll happily reserve judgement until I can try it out.
  • “Snapchat is the only company cool enough to possibly dismantle the Google Glass stigma,” writes Josh Constine at TechCrunch. He also anticipates them doing a constrained rollout, getting celebs to make the device cool/exclusive first. (Stay tuned for the louvered Kanye A-Hole Edition, bringing this tweet to fruition.)
Interesting times.

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