The biggest win in the race for consumer augmented reality smart glasses to date is not from Apple, Facebook or Google, but Snapchat’s parent company, Snap.
In an Apple-style “one more thing” moment at the Snap Partner Summit keynote on Thursday, CEO Evan Spiegel unveiled the next generation of Spectacles, which have finally evolved into standalone smartglasses capable of displaying AR content.
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With dual waveguide displays, two RGB cameras, four microphones and two stereo speakers, the smartglasses weigh 1
Users can browse the lens carousel via a capacitive touchpad on the temple or launch lenses via voice scan and then watch the AR effects directly through the smartglasses. Users can also start Lenses with Voice Scan.
A button on the right launches Scan, Snapchat’s visual search, to suggest lenses based on what’s in the field of view, while the left button records 10-second videos with AR effects, which are exported to the connected smartphone. As usual, an LED light lets people know when video recording is taking place.
If there is a downside, it is the fact that the device has a meager battery life of 30 minutes with continuous use. Plus, its usefulness seems to be limited to Snap’s AR lenses: no AR navigation or notifications here.
Unfortunately, they are not available to the general public at this time. Instead, they are offered to a select group of AR makers. For those makers, however, the Spectacles have full integration with Lens Studio, including the ability to test lenses in real time.
For everyone else, a try-out lens is available today through the Snapchat lens carousel.
Today’s surprise reveal was even foreshadowed earlier this year by reports that Snap had AR-compatible Spectacles in the works.
The tech world has been waiting with bated breath for Apple to release its secret AR wearable, with the current consensus pointing to an AR headset due to launch in 2022. Meanwhile, Facebook and its AR / VR arm through acquisition, Oculus, will tell anyone who will listen that it’s working on AR smartglasses and accessories.
But behold, Snap has provided subtle hints about its progress towards smartglasses through its earlier versions of Spectacles. The camera-equipped wearable made a step towards smart glasses in the third-generation edition, which also included dual cameras, but had to export 3D videos and images to Snapchat to add AR effects.
While the following Spectacles are positioned as a developer kit, the company is further ahead of much larger tech companies in the next computing paradigm.