Snapchat launches video camera sunglasses

Say cheese: ‘Spectacles’ use WiFi or Bluetooth to send short videos to your phone. © Snap Inc

‘I could see my own memory,’ says Snapchat’s founder of the first time he used his new product. ‘Spectacles’ could change how we share our experiences. But should we focus more on right now?

At a campaign event in Orlando, the woman hoping to become America’s first female president was standing on a box and waving. The crowd had its back to her.

Were they secret Donald Trump fans staging a public protest? Had someone even more exciting entered the room behind them? No. They were each taking a photograph of themselves with Hillary Clinton’s smiling face in the background. ‘Welcome to generation selfie,’ The Telegraph commented drily.

By the time the new president is sworn in next year, the crowds will have another option: ‘Spectacles’. Snapchat — which recently changed its name to Snap Inc — has announced its first foray into the hardware business. Its colourful new sunglasses have built-in cameras in the corner of each lens, which flash as they record 10-second videos. These are wirelessly sent to your smartphone, ready to be shared with the world.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Snap’s founder Evan Spiegel recalled the first time he used Spectacles. ‘We were walking through the woods, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back I could see my own memory, through my own eyes — it was unbelievable. It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience.’

They will cost about £100, and will go on sale later this year. But Spiegel refers to them as a ‘toy’ rather than a revolutionary new technology. ‘It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.’

If his past record is anything to go by, the answer will be ‘a lot’: more than 60% of American 13-34-year-olds use Snapchat. Users send over one billion snaps a day, and watch 10 billion videos.

Then again, there is a warning from Google Glass. The company’s ‘faceputers’ inserted notifications and other information into the user’s vision — but they were very unpopular, and Google stopped making them last year.

In the now

Good riddance, say some. The problem with social media is that it makes us think of experiences as ‘material’ to be relived later. Whether we are at a concert or eating a nice meal or meeting a presidential candidate, we are always one step removed from reality. Sharing what we see through these ‘Spectacles’ will only make these feelings of dissociation worse.

Don’t be such a downer, respond others. Spectacles look fun! And anyone who uses Snapchat knows that it is about living in the moment. Its messages are ephemeral, meaning there is no pressure to be perfect. Instead, its focus is on expressing yourself right now. Spectacles are just an extension of that philosophy — and a great way to bring people closer together.

You Decide

  1. Would you enjoy using Spectacles?
  2. Is the pressure of social media distracting people from their real life?

Activities

  1. Write a list of three pros and three cons for Snap’s Spectacles. Think about issues like privacy and price.
  2. Spend a few days capturing first-person videos of your daily life, and then edit them together into a one-minute vlog. Share them with the class and discuss. How do you feel having watched moments from each other’s lives? (Remember not to film other people without their permission.)

Some People Say...

“Social media is extremely antisocial.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why do people love Snapchat so much?
The temporary nature of its messages makes it different from other social media apps. In the words of Kim Kardashian West: ‘On Snapchat you can be so open and share whatever you want… There’s something so freeing about not feeling judged, shamed or bullied by not having any comments or likes. You’re free to be you!’
Will Spectacles be popular?
They are cheaper, easier to use, and less dorky than Google Glass. But they could face the same privacy concerns, as they allow the wearer to discreetly film their surroundings. (Although a flashing light has been installed to combat this problem.) Users might also find it irritating to have to charge their sunglasses every day. But Spiegel insists that they are there for ‘fun’, not as a totally serious product.

Word Watch

Hardware
If software is the apps and programs you use, hardware is the thing you use it on: your phone, laptop, or Apple Watch. Or sunglasses.
Cameras
The cameras have a wide lens with a 115 degree angle. They record circular video, which is closer to human sight than rectangular images. (Spiegel dismisses rectangles as a hangover from the days of print.)
Evan Spiegel
The Stanford University dropout created Snapchat when he was just 22. He daringly rejected a $3 billion offer for his company from Facebook; it is now worth $20 billion. He is engaged to the supermodel Miranda Kerr.
60%
According to The Wall Street Journal.
Google Glass
The ‘augmented reality’ glasses were launched in 2013 for $1,500 each. They were strongly criticised for privacy and legal reasons, as they allowed people to discreetly film others without their permission. Google says the project is not dead, although the glasses are not currently on sale.
Ephemeral
Something which only exists for a short amount of time. In Snapchat’s case, photographs and videos delete themselves once they have been viewed.

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