The company behind one of the world’s most popular mobile phone apps, Snapchat, has changed its name and announced a major new product. 'Spectacles' are sunglasses with a built-in camera, which can record first person footage in ‘circular’ video, ending need to choose between filming in portrait or landscape.
Prompted by its expansion beyond just one app, Snapchat has now become Snap Inc - though the picture messaging app will still be known by its original name - and calls itself “a camera company”.
If successful, Spectacles could be a significant boon for Snap, encouraging more users to its apps through the product. Footage will be viewed with the 'Memories' section of the Snapchat app. Although reminiscent of the Google Glass project, observers say Spectacles are seemingly better designed and simpler. They are also cheaper, to be priced at around £100, compared to more than £1,000 for Google Glass.
Many agree the most exciting aspect of the product is its circular video, which according to Snap: “Plays full screen on any device, in any orientation, and captures the human perspective with a 115 degree field of view.”
Snap claim to have created “one of the smallest wireless video cameras in the world” which, compared to a smartphone, can record a more human-like perspective. Using a discreet button on the frame, it will possible to take a day’s worth of images on a single charge but recording will be limited to 30 seconds.
Images will synch wirelessly with the Snapchat app, allowing them to be shared on a dedicated social media platform – which already enjoys huge popularity. Most of Snapchat's 100 million users are under 35-years-old. The company is keen to promote the freedom hands-free filming opportunities Spectacles purportedly present, particularly compared to using a smartphone to record footage. Spectacles promotional videos all feature people being active.
There is also a clear focus on a potential audience of young and trendy consumers, reflected in the model-heavy promotional imagery used by the company so far. The announcement was met with excitement among tech watchers, but also some trepidation. “This could work,” said Naval Ravikant on Twitter. “First person video was best thing about Google Glass. Attach a social network and strange days ahead.”
Goncalo Silva said: “I'd be concerned about Spectacles if I were GoPro. Considerably more seamless way to capture your life's moments.”
But despite the enthusiasm behind the innovation, the product will not be immediately distributed on the mass market. “We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” Snapchat creator Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”