Gadgets: Snap’s spiffy ‘Spectacles’
You won’t find this season’s must-have gadget in any store, said Edward Baig in USA Today. Snap Spectacles—funky, cameraequipped sunglasses that let wearers capture and share short video clips on the popular Snapchat messaging app—went on sale in limited quantities last month. But Snap, as Snapchat’s parent company recently rebranded itself, has decided to sell its first-ever hardware product not in retail outlets but out of mustard-colored vending machines dubbed Snapbots that pop up “in seemingly random places around the country.” So far, Snapbots have appeared in New York City, Tulsa, and even outside the Grand Canyon. In each location, they’ve been greeted by crowds of people who line up for hours for the chance to buy a $129 pair of the computerized shades. The long wait is worth it, said Sean O’Kane in TheVerge.com. Spectacles make it ridiculously easy to capture fun moments with friends without having to whip out your smartphone. Plus, they’re “a total blast to use.”
You might have thought tech companies would shy away from making computerized camera glasses “after the spectacular failure of Google Glass,” said Andrew Tarantola in Engadget.com. But even in their brief run, Spectacles “are already a hot commodity,” selling for upward of $900 on sites like eBay. To use them, you simply tap the “record” button on the glasses’ left temple to take a 10-second video. A glowing ring of LED lights above your left eye lets people know you’re filming them. You can then download any video you take to the Snapchat app. The video quality isn’t as good as you’ll find on a high-end smartphone, but “by not requiring you to have your phone in hand, Spectacles can be used in a much wider range of situations,” like action sports shots. And unlike Google’s heinously dorky glasses, Spectacles, which come in colors like black, aqua and fire-engine red, “could even be considered stylish.”
Snap is smart to sell its first wearable computer “as a toy,” said Kurt Wagner in Recode.net. Unlike the über-serious marketing for Google Glass, Spectacles have been clearly positioned as a fun accessory, best used for filming friends at a football game, “not for answering email.” “Time will tell if Spectacles become socially accepted or end up in the same junk drawer as Google Glass,” said Raymond Wong in Mashable.com. “At least with a phone it’s mostly (but not always) obvious when someone is in your face and recording you.” With camera glasses, “the boundaries to personal space in public are even less defined, since there’s no real social etiquette for them yet.” Once more people start to realize those hip-looking sunglasses you’re wearing might be recording them without their permission, the Spectacles hype could quickly turn into a Spectacles backlash.