I brought Snapchat's new $380 smart glasses on a trip to London, and their biggest selling point was a major letdown
- Snapchat has released the newest iteration of its smart sunglasses, called Spectacles 3, designed to let you record pictures and videos from a first-person point of view.
- The new model is equipped with two high-res cameras to better capture depth and dimension, which allow for the introduction of 3D filters and effects.
- However, these 3D effects - Snapchat's major selling point - are subpar, don't enhance the Spectacles experience, and can only be added later in the Snapchat app after you're done recording.
- Snapchat says the Spectacles 3 are essentially just a next step toward AR hardware in the future, a bet that ensures not many users will want to shell out a sky-high $380 for this model.
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Snapchat is betting big on a future when augmented reality hardware reigns supreme, but that wager comes at the cost of its newest pair of smart sunglasses, Spectacles 3.
Spectacles 3 were made available to the public on November 12. These new Spectacles come with two cameras and a trendier design, while also costing $380 - $220 more than the previous model released in 2018.
Spectacles design lead Lauryn Morris told Business Insider that the new glasses are designed to be more "premium and sophisticated," meant for the "mid-20s consumer who cares about that style and wants to explore technology." It's a risky move for a company whose first pair of Spectacles amassed a lot of early hype, but failed to deliver and resulted in $40 million worth of unsold inventory.
With a vacation to London scheduled right after Spectacles 3 launched, I decided to take the sunglasses across the pond to try them out in a city know for its cloudy skies and rainy days.
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At first glance, the Spectacles 3 have an overhauled design that does make them stylish.
Compared with the oversized look of the first two models of Spectacles, the design of the new pair is a big step up.
The biggest change with Spectacles 3 is the addition of a second camera to the glasses. This is intended to "capture the world the way your eyes do," Morris says — that is, the new glasses are designed to capture design and dimension.
By adding two high-res cameras, Snapchat is opening the doors to a world of capturing 3D. That enables some filters and lenses, which are already popular in the Snapchat app itself, to be applied to Spectacles videos.
One Spectacles feature I'm happy has lasted through the three different models is the wireless charging case.
One of the first bothersome things about using the Spectacles was the location of the buttons, one on each sunglasses arm, which are used for recording pictures and videos.
As with previous models, an LED light blinks when your Spectacles are recording, and I found it easy to see the light while wearing my glasses. With Spectacles 3, you can also configure that LED light to blink when you receive Snapchats from specific users.
Ahead of putting my Spectacles to the test, Snapchat told me they had already given some of their Official Lens Creators (artists who work with Snapchat to create filters and effects) pairs of the new sunglasses to try out. You can see some of their Spectacles captures here:
However, I was crushed to discover, almost immediately, that the videos I captured with my Spectacles 3 weren't as nice as these masterpieces. Sure, the resolution is high-quality — but you have to ensure your ability to record video is too.
And at night, Spectacles 3 have a lot of trouble. It depended on the color of the lights, but here — at a Christmas market in central London — many of the lights showed up over-saturated.
Now, onto the new types of content you can create with Spectacles 3. The pictures you can take be converted into 3D images and GIFs (like the one below). It's cool I guess, but I honestly don't see the use or point.
Then there are the 3D lenses and filters, effects that use augmented reality to make them reactive to the scene captured on your Spectacles. With only 10 filters at Spectacles 3's launch — Snapchat says there are more coming — the effects are pretty disappointing.
While I was less than impressed by the 3D filters currently available, they're even less exciting when you consider you can only overlay them onto your video after importing them into the Snapchat app. You won't see these effects in action until you're done using your Spectacles.
Something that hasn't changed with Spectacles 3 is a long-standing complaint: the cumbersome process of getting your videos and photos ready to share. All of this is done through the Snapchat app.
Before Spectacles 3 even launched, Snapchat was already emphasizing that these glasses are meant to be just a small step toward a future where augmented reality hardware is widely adopted. It's a risky move to put out $380 smart glasses when CEO Evan Spiegel still envisions that era 10 years away.
While the sunglasses are indeed trendy and similar to a style I'd buy myself, there's no situation in which I could justify spending $380 on a pair of wearables with cool filters. Since Snapchat is betting on the future, I recommend betting — and waiting — on it too.
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