Will New Electronic Glasses Change the View of Snapchat?

4:23 minutes

The social media company Snapchat has rebranded itself as Snap, Inc., and has unveiled an upcoming line of sunglasses fitted with cameras for recording 10-second moments. The $129 Snap Spectacles will allow users to record first-person video with a circular field of view that mimics that of human eyes, according to the company.

The devices could enable users to better capture personal moments, as well as share their (literal) point of view with others in a new way. But it remains unclear whether people will really want to wear two cameras on their head, or whether the devices can escape the nerd stigma of Google Glass. Josh Constine, editor at large at TechCrunch, explains the potential good and bad of these new specs.

Segment Guests

Josh Constine

Josh Constine is editor-at-large at TechCrunch, based in San Francisco, California.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: And now it’s time to play Good Thing, Bad Thing. Because every story has a flip side. Well you know how it is. You’re out with friends or doing something cool and you want to capture the moment. So you pull out your phone. You frame the shot and uh! Too late. The moment is gone forever. Well, what if instead, you just tap the side of your head because you’re already wearing a pair of sunglasses outfitted with a pair of cameras ready to capture a 10 second video any time you just happen.

Well, the company Snapchat has rebranded itself as Snap Inc. and unveiled what it calls Snap Spectacles. Here to walk us through the good and bad of the gadget is Josh Constine, Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch. Welcome to the program.

JOSH CONSTINE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

IRA FLATOW: OK so these look like regular glasses, but with a couple of video cameras in them?

JOSH CONSTINE: Yes. On one side of the frames they’ll have a video camera and on the other side there will be a little warning light that will show people that you’re recording them, which is very important considering the last time that people tried face computers, Google Glass, there was no real clear indication that you were recording someone, and that made people very nervous around them.

IRA FLATOW: Now say, is this just supposed to be a big toy for us to use? Is it for work?

JOSH CONSTINE: From one perspective, you could say it’s a toy, something that people are just going to use at music festivals and barbecues. It’ll be about $130. And you know, it’s not going to be that important because you already have a camera on your phone. But from another perspective, you could see this as Snapchat trying to own the camera. Right now, it has to go through your iPhone or Android phone’s camera and it doesn’t have nearly as much control over the experience.

This way it can build whatever type of camera it wants. So in this case, it’s a 115 degree wide lens camera that actually records in circular video, a video format no one’s ever seen before. That way when you watch it on your phone, you can turn your phone and any directions, portrait or landscape and it will always be full screen.

IRA FLATOW: That’s the good thing. What’s the bad thing here?

JOSH CONSTINE: I think the bad thing here is that people are not really used to having to suddenly be on camera. When we’re in normal life, if you do something that’s maybe a little bit risque or strange or weird looking, nobody’s holding their camera up around you, you don’t have to worry. Because if they do want to record you, they’re going to have to pull out their phone or pull out their camera and in those few seconds, you’re going to have time to change your behavior.

But with this, people will be wearing these glasses at all times. All they have to do is quickly tap the side of the glasses and suddenly you’re on camera. That’s going to be pretty nerve wracking for some people. If you remember, there were bars and places that put up no Google Glass signs. And somebody even got punched in the face over wearing them because some people just don’t want to be on camera.

IRA FLATOW: You’ll see these are very distinctive sunglasses. You can see who’s wearing them. I guess you will go hide or something if you see somebody coming in if you don’t like that.

JOSH CONSTINE: I guess, but you know, the sunglasses style for teens right now is very outlandish. They’re covered with weird features all over them, strange little bumps and curves, and so it might not necessarily be instantly obvious that somebody is wearing these. But while Snapchat’s younger teen users might have no problem with being on video, especially because when you’re being recorded by Snapchat, it’s usually going to disappear within a day of somebody posting it. It’s not like somebody recording it forever on YouTube. But at the same time older people, anyone who’s exposed to this is probably going to get pretty freaked out.

IRA FLATOW: What about– are they two cameras? Can you make a 3-D picture out of the two cameras on the glasses? That would be terrific.

JOSH CONSTINE: There’s actually only one camera on the glasses right now, but down the line Snapchat has paid a lot of money to hire a bunch of augmented reality experts, which it’s using to add features to its normal app, like being able to stick an emoji to something and it moved with that object no matter where or how your camera moves. And one day Snapchat could definitely build augmented reality into these glasses so you could see stuff on the lenses rather than just being clear sunglasses.

IRA FLATOW: Well, give me those two cameras on the iPhone at each end, so I can take a 3D picture, and I’m in with this stuff. Thank you very much for taking the time to be with us Josh. Josh Constine, Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch. We’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to hit the road with a look at the connected car, what would you like it to do for you?

Copyright © 2016 Science Friday Initiative. All rights reserved. Science Friday transcripts are produced on a tight deadline by 3Play Media. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. For the authoritative record of ScienceFriday’s programming, please visit the original aired/published recording. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/

Meet the Producer

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director and senior producer, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

Explore More