The last thing Snap Inc. wants is for its new Spectacles to become the next Google Glass.
Google released Glass in 2013 to much fanfare in the tech industry. Some thought the head-mounted display, which projected information like phone notifications and the weather over a glasses lense, would usher in the future of augmented reality computing.
That didn’t happen. Google Glass was a complete flop. Those who wore them were called “Glassholes.” Google never iterated past a $1,500 developer prototype, and quietly killed the project two years later.
A pair of Spectacles is like the anti-Glass.
For starters, there’s no fancy augmented reality tech that displays visual information on top of the glasses as you wear them. People close to Snap say that kind of technology is part of the company’s future roadmap, but it’s a long way off.
Instead, Spectacles are ultra-simple and designed to look like a quirky pair of Ray-Bans. They record 10-second clips of video that get sent straight to the Snapchat app. They only cost $130.
This simplicity is very much by design, and it’s why Snap CEO Evan Spiegel called Spectacles a “toy” when they were first announced.
Snap employees are terrified of Spectacles being perceived in the same kind of creepy, nerdy way that Google Glass was, according to someone familiar with their thinking. It’s why that Spectacles light up around the camera while recording — to help people feel like they’re not being constantly monitored.
And it’s why Spectacles are marketed like this:
And not like this:
Snapchat is already beloved by young people. By selling Spectacles through bright yellow vending machines that pop up in one city for 24 hours and then disappear (like messages in the app), Snap is setting itself up its glasses as a cool, exclusive status symbol out of the gate.
And by all indications the approach is working.
While the glasses have so far only been on sale for in Venice Beach and Big Sur, early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Pairs of Spectacles are reselling for thousands of dollars on eBay. People are frantically tweeting about where to find the next vending machine pop-up.
It’s still too early to tell if Spectacles will be a success, but they already have the cool factor that Glass never had. And as long as Robert Scoble doesn’t wear them in the shower, they have a shot at staying cool.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.