Snapchat, every teen and their cool mom's favorite way of communicating and/or sending nudes (or racist pictures), changed its name to Snap Inc. and débuted its new hardware product, bulky round sunglasses that record video, called Spectacles. In a lengthy WSJ Magazine near-hagiography promoting the new $129 hardware, Snap Inc. CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel described his new gadget, and Snap's new freedom from cell phone cameras, in almost revolutionary terms. “It’s about instant expression and who you are right now," he said. "Internet-connected photography is really a reinvention of the camera. And what it does is allow you to share your experience of the world while also seeing everyone else’s experience of the world, everywhere, all the time.”
To use the Spectacles—really just an expensive GoPro you put on your face, when you think about it—you tap a button on the side and record for ten seconds. To record for longer, you have to keep tapping the button. "It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again," Spiegel told WSJ Magazine writer Seth Stevenson, but are you really living in whatever moment you're trying to record if you're constantly tapping away on your sunglasses? Is it that different from tapping away on your phone?
Elsewhere, Spiegel described using a phone to record things on Snapchat as "a wall in front of your face," but much of the appeal of using Snapchat is being able to near-instantaneously send snaps after briefly writing or choosing a lens. Spectacles add another kind of wall: You have to transfer the video to your phone before being able to send it out.
Stevenson spends a lot of words describing Snap's ad strategy, but it's unclear how that will factor into Spectacles at all; will ads be able to play on the glasses as you wear them? Spiegel describes the reason why Snap is pursuing hardware as a "fun" "toy"; perhaps fitting for a company that made $59 million in revenue last year and is valued at $20 billion.
Still, despite seeming obstacles and Spiegel's continued status as a frat bro-turned-tech-bro, Spectacles seem better-positioned for success than Google Glass, which burned out spectacularly. They're much cheaper, and try to accomplish far less than Glass did, as WIRED's Brian Barrett points out.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.