What's So Important About Snap Inc. Spectacles?

10/25/2016 01:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What are Snap Inc. Spectacles and why are they important? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Brian Roemmele, alchemist and metaphysician, on Quora:

Snap Inc. (formerly Snapchat) Spectacles are a $130 (retail) pair of glasses (sunglasses) with a stereoscopic two-camera video recoding system that creates 10 seconds of live video and pictures and sends them to an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth into the Snapchat app.

Evan Spiegel calls Snap Spectacles a "toy," and this is brilliant positioning. In fact, it is true to a core sense. But it's a very useful toy to the average Snapchat user.


Photo credit: Karl Lagerfeld for WSJ Magazine.

It's hard to be in the moment if you have to open your phone and load an app.

The premise is quite simple. The central cohort of Snapchat users must process a number of cognitive and mechanical steps to engage a typical in-the-moment Snapchat. These cognitive loads and mechanical loads introduce about 12-45 seconds into the process to capture a moment. In unplanned circumstances, the delay introduced may very well allow the moment to pass by, or worse yet, require an artificial re-staging.

With Snap Spectacles, with the touch of a finger a moment can be captured instantly and shared either permanently or ephemerally.

The central cohort of Snapchat users currently skews to ages 12-24. This cohort has grown up with sharing of content, images, and video. A central issue has always been to construct a way that has the least number of barriers to this sharing. This issue became the central premise behind the extremely simple Snapchat user interface and user experience. Although once condemned as violating the previously accepted underpinnings of UI/UX, it now informs many current app designs.


For Snap Inc. to continue on the arc of high growth and to begin to better define how its core product is used, it was a natural transition to take the bold move to build hardware. If successful, and I assert that Spectacles v1 will be deemed successful by the company and its core cohort, Spectacles is a leap beyond the limitations of built-in cameras in smartphones for in-the-moment video and image capture.

Not Your Dad's Google Glass

It would be hasty to put Snap Spectacles in the same category as Google Glass[4]. Snap Spectacles is precisely targeted to a fundamentally different and highly focused user, whereas Google Glass had no clear central mission or directive and had a primary focus on early technology adopters. There are, of course, other fundamental differences.

Additionally, Google Glass was really not fundamentally designed for live streaming and was more focused on pictures and short snippets of information in cards. Snap Spectacles will take pictures, but is really about capturing the moment in short video loops.


An ugly spectacle?

Some will argue that the design of Snap Spectacles is ugly, perhaps. The design may, however, be precisely crafted to signal that the user is using the device. The funky design may be funky enough to become understood and desired by the central cohort of users. This design serves to telegraph to likeminded Snapchat users that you belong to a select group.

Snap Inc. and the voice-first revolution

I think Snap Inc. will begin to focus on a number of hardware devices that include a voice-first system, either separate or built into a future version of Spectacles. It is my central thesis that 50% of computer interactions will be by voice-assisted AI[2], which Snapchat aligns with perfectly. There is little doubt that Snap Inc. will move in a voice-first direction.

A new form of advertising

Snap Inc. has been experimenting with a new form of scannable advertising[3] that will activate when using devices like Spectacles:



Systems and methods for generating and distributing photo filters are described. A photo filter publication application receives filter data and object criteria and generates a photo filter based on the filter data. The photo filter is associated with satisfaction of the object criteria. A photo filter engine then identifies that a client device has taken a photograph. The photo filter engine then provides the photo filter to the client device based on the photograph including an object that satisfies the object criteria. The photo filter may then be displayed as an option on a user interface of the client device. The object criteria may include associations between an object and a source of image data, for example, a brand of a merchant in which case the associated photo filter may include images associated with the brand of the merchant.

This is a form of augmented reality[5] where there is an overlay of scannable objects that may unlock special offers and discounts along with the ability to check in.

Statically speaking, you are likely not the target demographic

It is clear that the same cohort that did not understand Snapchat in September 2011 and the following years will no doubt be the same cohort that will not understand Snap Spectacles, and that is the point. It is very likely not designed for you or me, yet.

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