Ever since Snap Inc. released its digitally connected Spectacles, there's been speculation that the company has bigger plans for the glasses. It seemed, even in the beginning, that Snap’s intention was to add in the capacity for users to overlay their real-world scenes with digital objects, similar to Google Glass.
But thus far, that next stage hasn’t come – every now and then new reports emerge, a new strand of possible information leaks. But really, it seems that building fully AR equipped glasses is actually harder than Snap might have initially thought, and that extra development (which Snap conducts at its secretive lab in China) has delayed any further iterations of the tool.
And now we have new reports of the next phase for Spectacles – according to Variety, the company has filed a document with the FCC which outlines plans for ‘Model 002’ of the device.
The new Spectacles would reportedly include improved file transfer speed and a redesigned frame, but there’s not a heap more to go on based on the FCC documentation, which mostly just lists compliance requirements.
Early last month, Cheddar reported that Snap Inc. was busy working on two new versions of Spectacles, with the second upgrade moving towards the aforementioned AR-style tool, enabling users to overlay digital images on their real-world field of vision.
As per Cheddar:
“The company has also begun work on a more ambitious, third generation of Spectacles with a new design and two cameras. Snap has prototyped an aluminum design with more circular lens frames, and two cameras that would allow for 3D-like depth effects in videos. Snap has additionally considered including a built-in GPS and a leather case, as well as a potential price tag of around $300, which would be more than double the current $130 cost for Spectacles”
Thus far, no one has been able to build a viable version of AR-enabled glasses – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted last April that we’re still five to seven years away from “having the science or technology to build the AR glasses that we want”. Given Facebook’s advantages in this regard, you’d have to think that Snap is further behind than they are – but then again, Snap has shown a knack for pushing the limits of innovation, and the company is notoriously secretive about its progress.
If Snap were to develop and launch the next generation of Spectacles, you’d also expect that they would have to have something new, a bigger kick to spark interest, particularly given the company has reportedly lost almost $40 million on unsold Spectacles thus far. If the original version didn’t catch on, Snap will need to do more than release a basic update in order to boost sales. Certainly, fully AR-enabled Spectacles would have that potential, but it’s a big leap, a big push for the company to make.
Could Snap do it? I definitely wouldn’t bet against them - and worth noting, the AR-enabled wearables market was projected to become an $11 billion industry when Google Glass hype was at peak. Even if interest is now only a fraction of that, that’d still offer more revenue potential for Snap than their current ad-focused model.
The advantage Snap has is that it’s already made the hardware, it’s gone through the process, and has learned from the first stage of Spectacles. They have a distribution model in place, a production system – Snap is in prime position to bring AR-enabled glasses to market. If they can conquer the tech.
Given the FCC filing, we’ll likely find out either way sometime soon.