Snapchat has had an interesting rise to fame over the past couple of years, rapidly becoming a serious media player in the social space by enticing a younger demographic through its short form content.
Earlier this year, Snapchat announced their most ambitious move since launch - rebranding to Snap Inc. and moving into the hardware space with the launch of Spectacles.
Earlier this month I got my hands on this highly sought-after wearable and have pulled together some thoughts on my experience with it so far.
Five things you need to know
Spectacles capture 10 second bursts of video via a camera that’s integrated into the frame of the glasses.
They can be paired with your smartphone to download, manage and edit snaps.
They act as a new content creating device. Content can be shared with any other Snapchat user regardless of whether or not they have Spectacles.
The glasses are available via pop-up “Snapbot” vending machines, the location of which are announced every few days on the Spectacles website.
And finally, they feel solid and durable and come with a self-charging case that can charge up to 4 times on the go.
Genius of a rollout
Snap has teased the device over the past few months but revealed no clear road map for its launch. That was until a few weeks ago when, out of the blue, they announced “Snapbot’ – a super cute, hyper-connected vending machine reminiscent of a blend between a minion and Pixar’s Wall-E.
Compared with the launch of Google Glass (which we will get onto), Snap has so far managed to tease and reveal the Spectacles rather well. By dropping Snapbots at different locations and having a clock on the site counting down to when they will reveal the machine’s geo-location, the company has built incredible hype, anticipation and momentum, ensuring demand is high for the piece of wearable tech.
Its launch has thrown the gauntlet down to other devices by bridging the gap between a physical and digital treasure hunt.
Virtual video, horizontal video or both
Having used Spectacles for almost a week now, I’ve found that one of the most exciting things about them is the format in which they capture content.
My background is in broadcast production and for years I had the 16x9 horizontal video format drilled into me as the industry standard for video. Over the past couple of years, however, mobile has created more and more bizarre formats; from the use of square images on Instagram to the now standard use of vertical videos thanks to the way we hold our devices. The lack of consistency or adaptability of these multiple formats has led to some hideous content faux pas; most notably the solid chunks of colour either side of the screen when you try to watch a vertical video while holding the phone horizontally.
Spectacles capture circular video with a slight fish eye effect to them. When you pair this with the accelerometer in most modern smart phones, it creates one of the most interesting things: full screen native video format.
For me this innovative new video format style of capturing is noteworthy. With no dead space, no longer will you have to deal with those horrible solid lines either side of your content, and it creates an engaging way of interacting with your video by allowing you to tilt your device to your preferred viewing perspective. This also means that depending on how you hold your phone there’s hidden space if viewed at another angle – it’ll be interesting to see how brands make use of this, there’s certainly potential to unearth some hidden gems!
What can we expect going forward?
Two days into using them I’d captured a lot of first person perspective content, predominantly making the most of being able to use both hands - including having a crack at filming a recipe for mulled wine, showing off some Christmas party tips and a giving viewers a tour of the VCCP office.
Spectacles are already being used by key Snapchat influencers, and no wonder; they offer a unique ability to capture authentic, first person narrative content – which is just what Snapchat users want. I can very easily imagine all sorts of people using them to great effect: chefs for cooking demos, musicians revealing behind the scenes footage, sports stars taking viewers through their training regimes and car enthusiasts taking people for virtual test drives.
It will be interesting to see what situations and scenarios arise that are perfect for Spectacles content, events that enable viewers to be true virtual participants. It’ll also be cool to see whether Snap intends to roll out the video format to its advertising platform. Time will tell.
Yes, but is it just another Google Glass?
Now, let’s get one thing straight - they are not Google Glasses, and I don’t think that was ever the intention. I was lucky enough to get one of the early models of Google Glass and tried living with them and using them in various different social and cultural situations for a good few months. Google Glasses were a very expensive prototype of AR glasses that would act as a display for your mobile device. They also looked like a computer for your face. As with all prototypes and indeed with lots of innovation initiatives, there were serious teething problems and key learnings.
Snap’s Spectacles are a new device that makes capturing those fleeting moments easier, through a first person perspective that feels a lot more personal to the viewer. Aesthetically, they’re much easier on the eye than Google Glass, and from a user’s perspective, they create less of a cultural/tech barrier between the wearer and the people they engage with.
However, only time will tell if they are just a passing fad. If Snap can go beyond the early influencers by ironing out any wrinkles, it may well be that Spectacles will reach mass adoption.
My opinion since using them for just under a week is that in the right situation and in the hands of the right creative minds and brands, we could see some truly interesting uses of Spectacles.
Will Harvey is innovation lead at VCCP, you can follow his experience using Spectacles on Snapchat via: WilliamEdHarvey.