On Snapchat Spectacles
So…they’re fucking fun. I got my Spectacles 24 hours and 29 minutes ago…at the risk of losing my 1 year warranty by admitting that I bought them off a kid on craigslist as opposed to “from Snap inc. or an authorized retailer,” I will tell you that I contemplated the 10 hour line on 5th avenue for a $140 pair, and then opted for the incredibly honest and kind Ukranian kid from Sheepshead Bay who (although quite tardy) drove his c. 1980 white BMW into the city and delivered a pair for $200…he even taught me how to use them free of charge. Worth it.
After 24 hours with them, here are some thoughts:
1) This review I read in the New York Times did a pretty good job of capturing the functionality and experience of using the glasses. I won’t repeat all that, but the most salient thing I took away from Farhad’s review was that the images captured by Spectacles are more raw and honest then even iPhone Snaps, which in themselves are more raw than the type of video you would deliberately capture with an intention of posting to Facebook or Instagram. Farhad writes:
“The images I snapped with my Specs over Thanksgiving weekend are deeper, more real and more emotionally evocative than most other snapshots I usually shoot. I think this has to do with point of view. When you take a picture with a camera, you are usually cropping an ideal shot that bears little resemblance to what you actually saw. But Specs don’t idealize the present.”
There is not much stabilization in the video that’s captured, the point of view moves as organically and sometimes jerkily as one’s head might, and consuming the videos later on has a different sense of presence then any other film i’ve captured on my phone. Part of this presence comes form the “Snap viewer” for Spectacles content, which allows the iphone screen to “walk around” a circular image captured by the glasses while viewing any rectangle within it, as opposed to simply fitting the film to one prescribed screen size rectangle. It’s closer to a true field of view, and I really like it (note: the video of my day attached to this post, is a proxy for the feeling of viewing the content in Snapchat, but much more limited…you really have to watch the content in the app to get the full experience.
2) So I had that raw and honest expectation going in, and I love that dimension to the content. There is…however a major downside. Yes, you can capture more raw, honest moments…without interupting the experience by putting your phone between you and the world…BUT…when you are wearing Spectacles, now every raw and honest moment becomes an opportunity to capture and share. Partially because the glasses are tinted…there is this feeling like you are always looking through a viewfinder…and you start seeing the world in 10 second video opportunities…your most raw and honest moments become “is this a good snap?” and that’s now somewhat dilutive to real life. The experience of capturing is more present and non-disruptive…but the experience of living becomes more about capturing. Much in the same way that I’ve started to think in 140 characters…where Twitter has literally changed the format of the dialouge in my head…Spectacles started to make me see in Snaps…
3) The decision to make Spectacles sunglasses and not clear glass is not an obvious one, but I am sure quite deliberate. There are clear downsides, most notably that there are many contexts (including the whopper of nighttime) where it is inappropriate to where sunglasses. Sitting indoors at breakfast with friends (at least in NY…LA might be different) only ass holes would keep sunglasses on…going into a museum to view art…sunglasses not ideal…walking down the street at night…all of these opportunities for compelling content creation on Snapchat, the company forwent…but what they gained is likely more important: Spectacles actually look cool when you wear them…whereas Google glass was completely tone def to societal standards…Spectacles thread this perfect needle where they are attractive independent of the tech forward statement one is making…they are not “four eyes” technology…they are “beautiful people” technology…and therefore have an addressable market of all that aspire to be cool…very on brand…worth the lost addressable content when trying to persuade the normals to wear cameras on their faces. (Note: as a non-beautiful person…i considered removing the sunglass lenses alltogether, and just wearing empty frames so that I could use my spectacles all the time…i think they will come out with non-sunglass options if and when the world starts wearing Spectacles en mass)
4) I am super impressed that I don’t need to have my phone nearby to use Spectacles. The glasses have local storage and videos sync over bluetooth or wifi automatically when the phone and glasses are together. It’s fast, surprisingly low impact on my battery, and no content loss or blips…the UX of navigating, editing, and sharing my Spectacles moments inside the Snapchat app could use some refinement…but on the whole it’s very doable.
5) I think V2 Spectacles will definitely have an always on voice interface (I’m guessing there’s a battery constraint, but it’s not like Siri where the machine needs to make a network request to be functional…i think the always on mic listening for a single word can run locally, which should help w battery). Right now you tap a button on the left side of the glasses to begin recording. It’s non-obstrusive, but it’s still an action that interrupts the moment and ties up one of your hands. It’s not as bad as pulling out your phone, but I want to be able to say “Snap this” and have the glasses record without pressing any buttons.
6) Overall, I think Spectacles are a really promising and complete first generation device. My friend Amy (who’s starring in a bunch of these Snaps today) asked what I thought they could be for the company…I started by saying “do you remember the first generation iPod…it’s like that…they’re not ready to be in everyone’s lives yet…but if the company continues to invest in this thought…something really special could materialize.” I sort of backed off that statement after I said it…because I can’t really predict what Snapchat’s ipod to iphone leap might be (maybe contact lenses?), but I think I said it because i’m hopeful and excited and i’ve been waiting for a new piece of technology to truly inspire me in this world of derivatives on derivatives…and these toy glasses have done just that. Thank you Snapchat 🙂