Snap Unveils Its First Augmented-Reality Smart Glasses

·3-min read

Snap is taking a new crack at smart glasses — after a disappointing uptake of its first attempts — announcing the next generation of Spectacles, marking the company’s first pair of display glasses designed for augmented reality.

The new Spectacles are not currently available to buy. CEO Evan Spiegel, announcing the product at the Snap Partner Summit 2021 on Thursday, said the company has made them available to select creators to experiment with. Snap first introduced Spectacles for recording short videos in 2016, but earlier models failed to take off.

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It’s unclear whether Snap sees the AR-enabled Spectacles as a sizable new hardware business — or whether the company expects them to remain a niche-oriented tool for developers creating immersive content.

The new smart glasses provide a “multi-sensorial experience that redefines how we interact with and see the world,” Spiegel boasted. He demo’d a couple of Lenses designed for Spectacles, including a “Fetch” game in which an animated dog retrieves a virtual bone that you throw.

The new Spectacles let you see virtual digital objects overlaid on the scene in front of you. The glasses include dual 3D waveguide displays and a 26.3-degree diagonal field of view overlay for AR Lenses — which appear before the wearer’s eyes. With 15 millisecond motion-to-photon latency, the Snapchat Lenses can “react quickly and appear accurately within the field of view,” according to Snap.

The glasses feature two RGB cameras, four built-in microphones, two stereo speakers, and built-in touchpad controls for a “multi-sensorial experience that orients technology around humanity,” according to the company. The Spectacles weigh 134 grams (about 4.7 ounces) and have a battery life of approximately 30 minutes per charge.

The glasses’ touchpad controls at the temple lets the wearer interact with the Spectacles display and launch the Lens Carousel, allowing creators to experience a variety of Lenses. The right button activates Scan, the feature that analyzes what is in the Spectacles’ field of view and suggests the most relevant Lens experiences. In addition, the Spectacles include a Voice Scan feature to allow spoken commands to launch Lenses hands-free. The left button lets the wearer capture 10-second Snaps of Lenses overlaid on the world, and share those videos to Snapchat.

The company said Spectacles are “fully integrated” with Lens Studio, Snap’s desktop software designed for AR creators and developers to build and distribute Lenses across Snap’s AR platform.

Snap said it has made the new Spectacles available to AR creators including: Don Allen Stevenson III of Vibe Quest AR; Lauren Cason; Kat V. Harris of Dance Helper; Zach Lieberman; Matthew Hallberg of SketchFlow; Clay Weishaar of Metascapes; and Leighton McDonald of BlackSoul Gallery.

According to Snap, the new Spectacles use the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 processor, designed for extended reality (XR) applications.

Watch Snap’s sizzle reel for the new Spectacles:

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