ANGELES ó For decades, from Kodak to Polaroid to GoPro,
companies have marketed cameras by touting features such
as focal length, image size and memory space.
ó the debut camera from Los Angeles startup Snap Inc.
ó might be the first capture device ever sold with
most technical specifications withheld.
refuses to reveal the megapixel measurement of
Spectaclesí image sensor, the exact capacities of its
storage and battery, or details about other components.
secrecy reinforces how Snapís inventions are designed
to break from tradition. The company rose to popularity
with a self-destructing message app, Snapchat, that
countered Facebookís emphasis on preserving
conversations. Now with lightweight sunglasses that
record video, Snap is suggesting to users that the
details of cameras shouldnít matter. The attention
should be on whether the Spectacles sunglasses enable
users to document life in a natural, in-the-moment way.
public, Spectacles users almost blend in. Even when a
ring of small LED lights spins at the hinge, indicating
the camera is recording, few passersby seem to bat an
eye. It helps that in a country filled with selfie
sticks, helmet-mounted GoPros and streets lined with
surveillance cameras, many have grown accustomed to the
idea that anything in public may be filmed.
wearing Spectacles, itís easy to forget there are
sophisticated electronics attached to you.
frames come in a low-key black, a laid-back teal and a
much more in-your-face coral. They donít look all that
different from a pair of knock-off Ray-Bans, aside from
the big yellow-outlined circles on each edge ó one
housing the camera and the other the ring of lights ó
and the slightly oversized earpieces and bridge.
look as goofy as anyone who wears the decorative swag
given out at some fair booths. Thatís a big
improvement over Google Glass, the last notable attempt
by a software company to develop eyepiece technology.
Spectacles wearers wonít instantly be pegged as geeks
or futuristic cyborgs.
affordable and higher-quality options for video camera
sunglasses exist, but they appear marketed toward James
Bond wannabes and extreme sports athletes. Spectacles
might feel expensive at $130. But what buyers get is a
brand name, a look that wouldnít feel out of place in
a youthful setting and one of the simplest cameras
have made recording effortless. Thereís something
satisfying about just tapping one button to make a
10-second video. Bicycling, bowling, go-karting,
dancing, tossing a baby into the air ó just about any
high-action activity immerses viewers with an eye-level
perspective seldom captured before, and never so easily.
But during more treacherous activities, a rugged and
mountable camera such as the GoPro might be more
usable for most people today right out of the box,"
said Gordon Wetzstein, a Stanford University assistant
professor who researches next-generation electronics.
"Itís a good test case to see if people want that
arenít perfect. They make boring wide shots and blurry
night recordings. They donít take stills and donít
zoom. And indoor usage is unlikely because wearing
sunglasses inside is weird.
has helped limit their utility to scenarios that
generally come with lower expectations of privacy, said
Michael Kim, a product design expert who founded Kim
include a proprietary charging cable and a durably
textured charging case, with extras for $10 and $50
respectively on Amazon.com.
details have emerged about the technology in the
sunglasses from people who have torn their shades apart,
including that the battery is about 5 percent of whatís
packed in a smartphone. Snap has said Spectacles hold
about 100 videos, suggesting at least 2 gigabytes of
onboard memory. Theyíre manufactured in China by
Goertek, according to regulatory filings.
apparently have a motion-activated sensor too. Users can
double-tap the side of the frame, which lights up LEDs
on the front to indicate the current battery level. A
microphone is bundled somewhere.
between the recording and the viewing, Snap still has
work to do. Downloading videos to the Snapchat app on a
smartphone is slow and buggy. Videos show up in
high-definition on the ownerís phone, but they canít
be shared with others in HD. They record in a circular
format that makes it possible to view videos in
full-screen in both landscape and portrait mode on
Snapchat, but they get cropped down significantly when
viewed in other apps.
organizes Spectacles videos into batches based on the
day they were shot and uses an undisclosed algorithm to
automatically point users to the best among them.
the editing process, users can doodle on the 10-second
videos just as they would a normal Snapchat video. They
also can adorn them with geofilters, or digital stickers
that mention a location. The geofilters available are
dependent on where the Spectacles videos are imported
ó not where theyíre shot.
declined to list other data it associates with a
recording, such as the specific pair of glasses used or
the time the video was taken. Such metadata is stripped
out and the file size reduced when Spectacles videos are
exported to other apps from Snapchat.
went a different route than traditional Snapchat videos
when it comes to storage. By default, Snapchat tries to
store videos on its servers for a very limited time. But
Spectacles videos by default are backed up to Snapchatís
cloud permanently, meaning users should be wary when
taking sensitive or scandalous shots with Spectacles.
Snap holds the power to view videos, and potentially
share them with law enforcement, unless the user marks
them as "My Eyes Only." Even in that case,
some metadata remains unencrypted.
is only selling Spectacles through a limited-hours store
in New York City and vending machines roving around the
U.S. a day at time. The unusual sales strategy prompted
big lines when Spectacles went on sale in early
November. But the frenzy has subsided.
resale markets such as Amazon.com and EBay, prices have
tumbled. The average secondary market buyer paid $261 in
December compared with $466 in November, according to an
analysis of 137 receipts gathered by research firm Slice
Intelligence. They were overwhelmingly purchased by
young white men, Slice said.
Google, searches for Spectacles have dropped by half in
the last month. Research firms EMarketer and Hitwise
found that about 124,000 people in the U.S. searched for
"Snapchat spectacles" or "Snapchat
glasses" during their first month available.
not an insignificant number but itís barely a bug on
the windshield compared to Snapchatís U.S. user base,
which EMarketer estimates at 58.6 million," the
a quick-launch camera, Snap has achieved a vital first
step toward the types of wearable devices many
technologists predict will become commonplace in the
future. The missing half is a display technology. On the
simple side, a display would show people what they are
recording. But over time, the display could grow to
become a replacement for smartphones ó showing
notifications, maps and videos.
these head displays to work as imagined remains a
challenge, Wetzstein said. Experimental products with
both a camera and display such as Google Glass and
Microsoft HoloLens look dorky, except if in certain
workplaces, because they place clear visors in front of
a userís face.
and Google have made progress," he said. "But
thereís a way to go to put something in the form of
unlikely Snap would release display-integrated
Spectacles until it can making viewing more captivating
than on a smartphone. But devices and their accessories
appear core to the future of Snap, which since September
has described itself as a camera company.
hopes the next Spectacles model allows for
live-streaming video to friends. In the more distant
future, as people get accustomed to wearing Spectacles
and computing devices on their head, voice integration
could be possible the same way Siri works on an iPhone.
Ö will be addressed through personalized voice in the
near-term than through wearable cameras, but the two
combined would be a very impressive combo," he
typical tech company might make modest upgrades to the
next version of Spectacles, offer customized designs and
provide more ways to buy them. But Snapís strategies
are hardly predictable. Rather than release a new
version of Spectacles next, itís possible the company
could come out with a different variety of camera first.
next, Snapís first take on cameras has given users new
freedom and flexibility. Spectacles extend offline the
fun of Snapís playful app, even if only in 10-second
bursts of excitement.