Despite various setbacks, and moderate popularity, Snapchat is still pushing ahead with its Spectacles, its camera-enabled sunglasses which enable you to film what you're seeing at any given time.
The latest development on this front is "Spectacles 3", a new generation of the device which will include improved capture capacity, with 3D depth-of-field in captured content.
As explained by Snapchat:
"Spectacles 3 are built with a strong, lightweight steel frame and circular lenses. Two HD cameras on either side of the frame capture depth and dimension the way your eyes do, and power new augmented reality creative tools to enhance your Snaps."
To be clear, these AR additions are not viewable through the device itself. The new cameras will enable improved visual editing on your captured content, including AR overlays, within Snapchat.
In order to do this, you need to first capture your content through the glasses, then transfer it to Snapchat from the device. Once it downloads, you can then edit the video footage within the app.
As noted by The Verge, this has been one of the key hurdles for Spectacles, that the content you capture doesn't automatically transfer to the app.
"I’ve abandoned my two generations of Spectacles in previous years within a few weeks, primarily for that reason: taking snaps on Spectacles, transferring them to my phone, and only then being able to edit and share them felt like too much work for too little reward."
This new version doesn't add anything functional in this respect, though the dual cameras, as you can see, do add increased capacity for such editing. You can also export anything you capture through your Spectacles to other platforms too, if you so desire (and note, you can post 3D photos direct to Facebook also).
But these new additions do come at a price. Right now, the current version of Spectacles sells for $150. Spectacles 3, when launched in November, will cost $380.
That seems like a fairly hefty increase, especially without a huge functional leap. The original plan for Spectacles, as we've noted previously, seemed to indicate that the aim was to build in full AR overlay capacity through your real-world vision - essentially a consumer version of Google Glass, with the added cool cache of coming from Snapchat.
That's actually what Snap outlined in its own patents for the device - but added manufacturing complications, and technical limitations, seem to have de-railed that plan.
On the technical front, back in 2017, when Facebook outlined its own plans for AR-enabled glasses, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that:
“I think everyone would basically agree that we don’t have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want - we may in five years, or seven years, or something like that, but we’re not likely to be able to deliver the experience that we want right now.”
That would make AR-enabled glasses, in Zuckerberg’s estimate, available to consumers in about 2022 - and given that Facebook's resources are a significant way ahead of Snapchat's, you'd think that this is also the scale Snap is looking at.
But then again, this new iteration of Spectacles does move a little step closer in this respect. Consumers might not go crazy for this newer, more expensive iteration of what equates to a James Bond-style spy camera, but the added visual capacity does take the device to the next level. And if Snap can earn some development money by shifting a few units, maybe that will add to its eventual development of fully-functional AR glasses - though, at the same time, I'm guessing Snap won't be investing into creating thousands of units till it better understands demand for Spectacles 3 (after reportedly losing $40 million on unsold inventory with the first version).
There is opportunity here, there is increased capacity, and functional value to the new device. It's not a massive leap, which is what we're all hoping to see from Snap, but it's another step, which is more logical, more measured. A more mature move from a company that's growing up, and building a sustainable process.
Spectacles 3 will ship in November and are available to pre-order now at Spectacles.com.