Snap for several years has sold Spectacles, its hardware glasses that feature two cameras that can record POV videos for sharing to Snapchat.
But that’s all they do, and since they look lame, they’ve never really taken off. Considering Google released Glass way back in 2013 as a full-on face computer, the Spectacles have always seemed a little simplistic.
We know, we know. They look awful. But Snap says the new glasses are aimed at the developers and AR creators who already supply Snapchat with its vast array of Lenses. Consumers won’t be buying these.
Nobody has figured out quite what AR glasses could be useful for. Snap hopes that by releasing the glasses early, developers will build AR experiences designed specifically for glasses that can seed the ecosystem.
The glasses will need upgrades before consumers might buy them anyway.
Some of the specs are good. The glasses have two cameras, microphones, speakers, full positional tracking, and built-in touchpad controls. That’s all powered by a Qualcomm XR1 chip, so they’re not reliant on a smartphone for processing.
Along with the glasses, Snap announced updates to its AR toolkit, adding full-body tracking so users can try on virtual clothes, for instance. And “Connected Lenses” let users participate in AR games together from a distance. Its AR search tool, Scan, will soon be able to scan a food item and return recipes.
Snap’s strategy with releasing these glasses now seems to be a hope that it can get in front of rivals Facebook and Apple, both of which are working on AR glasses that could be the next major platform after the smartphone.
If Snap does manage to pull off its gamble and its early developer release gives it a plethora of glasses-ready content, that might be enough to keep competitors trailing.
Competitors like Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens have remained niche, but they don’t have the built-in audience and AR developer community that Snap does.