Why won’t SnapChat Spectacles be another version of Google Glass? Let’s first travel back in time – to the early vision and the roll out of Google Glass.
What was Google Glass?
Google Glass was publicly announced in April 2012, and had its public debut at Google I/O. “Being able to share what you’re seeing is amazing,” Brin told the crowd as four skydivers wearing Google Glass broadcast their descent to the the room.
In February of 2013, Google co-founder Sergey Brin took to the TED stage wearing a strange almost android looking pair glasses. On the right side of the frames, there was a rectangular box that contained a miniature video camera and a transparent heads-up display.
The mission as Sergey explained it was to replace the ‘emasculating’ behavior of walking the streets with a phone in year hand, staring down and increasingly tuned out of the world around you. Instead, he wanted the digital world to lay seamlessly over the real world, a ubiquitous computer there to provide information on demand, communication with friends and family, and a video and still recording and transmission device. Users communicated with the device via natural language voice commands. Google released the device to early adopters – known as Glass Explorers, in April of 2013. The device came with a steep price tag of $1,600. Not for the faint of heart.
I was in the TED hall that day – and remember the buzz of excitement. Would Google Glass be the next big thing, as the iPhone had been? Would Google invent a whole new way to connect with the internet? I signed up and was one of the early Explorers. And – for a time – it was grand. People stopped me in the street. I found myself saying “Okay, Glass – record a video.”I tried to use the voice commands to search for map information. But after a few months – public sentiment turned. Google Glass users were harshly named “GlassHoles” and issues of privacy and safety began to shift public reaction from acceptance to annoyance. I took mine off and waited for Google to release a new model that addressed concerns. So far, that hasn’t happened. On December 28, 2015, Google filed a new application with the FCC for a new version of the Google Glass – unclear when they’ll reach the market.
Now, let’s lay out what Snapchat is, and what it’s stated goals for Spectacles are.
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel announced that they’re getting into hardware. They plan a limited release of Spectacles – in a hipster palette of black, teal and coral. While Google Glass was hardcore tech – the Snap Spectacles are cool, simple, and cheap. Selling for just $129 a pair, they’ll record up to 10 seconds of video, which can be sent to Snapchat through either Bluetooth or wifi.
“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” 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.”
The camera shoots an 115-degree field of view – with the idea that Snapchat Spectacles can produce videos that reflect an individual perspective. On the good news side, Spectacles will make shooting video easier, since it’s essential hands-free.
You just tap the side of the frames, and the video is automatically transferred to the Memories section of your Snapchat app. You can keep it or delete it at your leisure. And, for privacy-focused users, you’ll know when the glasses are recording as there’s a ring of lights around the camera that lights up to let your friends know they’re on camera. But part of the allure of Snapchat is the now ubiquitous selfie, and unlike the iPhone’s reverse facing camera, Spectacles only shoot outward, so if you want to record yourself, you’ll need to find someone else wearing Spectacles, or hand you glasses to a friend to get you in the picture. That’s certain to create some consternation among the selfie-obsesses set.
So – are Snapchat Spec’s going to be Glasses For The Masses? Spiegel is certainly smart to position them as a toy – at least for now. But there’s one thing for certain. People are looking for more and more ways to become the authors of their personal stories. And it’s certainly going to be little time before someone hacks Snap Specs to become always-on transmitters of video to Facebook Live or YouTube, or Periscope, or Instagram – or maybe all of the above.
So Glassholes, hold on to your frames… the world’s about to be on camera anywhere you turn.