Hackernoon logoSnapchat Spectacles — initial impressions and the potential future by@toddgoldberg

Snapchat Spectacles — initial impressions and the potential future

Snapchat Spectacles are a new form of interactive, on-demand content. The biggest advantage I see with Spectacles is that it’s the fastest way to video capture a moment. Snapchat users can rotate their phones to see a wider field-of-view. Spectacles film your surroundings from a first-person POV, it opens the door to capture things that were previously awkward or difficult to film. The current workflow for sharing Spectacles content is more effort than just capturing live video.
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Todd Goldberg


After lots of hustling, I’ve finally acquired a pair of Snapchat Spectacles — something that’s difficult to do when you’re living/working in Thailand. It involved hiring a TaskRabbit to wait in line for hours at Snapchat’s popup store in NYC to buy the Spectacles, express shipping from NYC to SF days before Christmas, and a friend visiting Thailand for New Year’s Eve to hand deliver them to me. Now that I’ve had them for a few days, I figured I’d share my initial impressions and thoughts on their potential.

I’m an avid Snapchat user who enjoys using the product as a daily storytelling and creative tool to document my life abroad. I tend to live minimally, and like many millennials, I tend to focus my personal spending on experiences over things. To me, Spectacles seemed like a fun, unique way to document those experiences.

Snapchat did an excellent job launching a new, unproven wearable through clever marketing and systematically limited supply. I’m consistently impressed with Snapchat’s execution in both product decisions and the way they approach marketing it and the company’s brand. The cute vending machine they designed personifies the Spectacles and keeps consumers on their toes as they wait to learn where it will appear next.

For an initial version, Spectacles are thoughtfully designed and show off its capabilities well. It’s the little details like a carrying case that has its own battery to charge the glasses when on the road, and self-contained storage so you can use the glasses independently of your phone that caused Spectacles to exceed my expectations.

A new form of interactive, on-demand content

As a consumer, the biggest advantage I see with Spectacles is that it’s the fastest way to video capture a moment. Simply tap the button on the frame and you’re recording. I’ve already captured some moments that I would have missed if I needed to pull out my phone.

Because Spectacles film your surroundings from a first-person POV, it opens the door to capture things that were previously awkward or difficult to film. You also now have a whole other hand free. Things like eating, riding a motorcycle, and even just walking seem more interesting. I’m constantly asking myself “what would look interesting or unique from this perspective?”

Snapchat didn’t just focus on the creator experience, it created a new way to interact with content. Snapchat viewers can rotate their phones to see a wider field-of-view . I’m not sure if this is just the novelty of it, but I’ve found myself replaying more Spectacle-captured snaps to rotate my phone to see if I missed anything.

Like with any new format, people will experiment and learn what works best. Over time, we’ll see some unique interactive content come from this new point of view.

Learning from Google Glass

It seems Snapchat also learned from the shortcomings of Google Glass, the wearable that I think is most similar to Spectacles. There are a few items worth noting:

  • Privacy — Google Glass sort of had a creepiness factor to it given that people in a Glass user’s surroundings never knew if they were being recorded. Spectacles solve that with a bright, circular animation that lights up when recording.
  • Style — Glass made people look like cyborgs. That’s probably not what the average consumer wants to look like everywhere they go. Spectacles, on the other hand, are sunglasses that look similar to other designer models and have a camera that is tucked away internally in the frame.
  • Price — At $1,500, Glass was a significant investment. Similar to other successful wearables like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, Spectacles are well priced at $129.99. This price point is also inline with pricing for other designer sunglasses (Note: I wouldn’t consider these a replacement for a good pair of sunglasses, but you can’t really wear both pairs at the same time :) — plus, there’s a camera!
  • Mainstream appeal — While Glass had an almost elitist atmosphere around it, Spectacles are positioned as approachable by anyone. Snapchat focused their efforts on influencers outside of tech, most notably in the fashion world.

It’s not perfect

As an early adopter, I’m happy with the product, but there are of course areas to improve. While Snapchat has moved from letting users only share the current moment to allowing the sharing of even pre-recorded content with its camera roll feature, I like sharing on the spot. The current workflow for sharing Spectacles content is more effort than just capturing a live video. I’d like to see this streamlined. Camera companies like GoPro, who probably don’t know what to make of Spectacles, are realizing how important it is to minimize the time and effort it takes between creating content and sharing it.

As someone who enjoys creating video content, I’d love to incorporate Spectacles content into my videos. While it’s possible today, it’s not ideal as exporting Spectacles content results in a unique, circular shape. I understand this is probably for the app’s own consumption, but it would be nice to export in a more normal shape/aspect ratio so I can use the content elsewhere.

An MVP for Snap Inc’s vision of augmented reality

Snap Inc. (Snapchat’s parent company) defines themselves as a camera company that “…believe[s] that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.” When used in realtime, the camera is a gateway to connect the physical world to the digital world. This is why I think Spectacles are an early MVP for Snap Inc’s vision of augmented reality outside of the Snapchat. Recently, Snap Inc acquired augmented commerce company CIMAGINE which could continue their exploration of digital commerce (It seems they also silently removed the Snapcash feature which provided P2P payments). I’m not sure what the future holds for Spectacles, but my guess would be that if there is interest and traction in the product, that future versions may apply some of Snapchat’s in-app augmented reality functionality to the world you’re experiencing through Spectacles’ lenses.

I try to create interesting content — mostly travel related — with an element of storytelling on Snapchat. If that interests you, follow me on Snapchat (👻 toddg07).

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