Snap’s Spectacles 3 are an ugly reminder why smart glasses aren’t ready

By

Snap 3 glasses
This is as good as Spectacles 3 are ever going to look. For better or worse.
Photo: Snap

Despite Apple’s focus on ARKit and augmented reality, it’s yet to release the AR headset it is supposedly working on.

Tim Cook has previously said Apple will only do it when it can do so in “a quality way.” Snapchat’s newly unveiled Spectacles 3 may be a reminder as to why Apple is hanging back.

The new sunglasses boast dual HD cameras “to empower creativity in 3D.” According to Snapchat:

“Snaps captured using Spectacles 3 seamlessly transfer in HD to Memories within Snapchat to add new lighting, landscapes, and other magical effects to an entire scene with a swipe. Snaps can also export to Camera Roll as circular, horizontal, square and virtual reality formats for saving, editing, sharing, and reliving, anywhere.”

While they are not expressly designed for AR, the dual camera 3D setup makes this an obvious use-case. Snapchat has had some success in the AR category with its augmented reality mask filters.

The glasses come in both “carbon” and “mineral” color options. (That’s “black” and “kinda goldish” to the rest of us.) Tapping or holding the buttons can record up to 60 seconds of video or a still image. LED indicator lights notify people when recording. There’s also a 4-microphone array for “high-fidelity audio.”

Snap plans to ship the Spectacles 3 in the fall. They’re currently available for preorder at $380 on Spectacles.com.

What’s next for 3D glasses?

So far, Snap’s Spectacles haven’t exactly set the world on fire. In 2017, Snap had to write-off around $40 million in unsold inventory. The year after that, Snap Spectacles’ boss Mark Randall left the company.

But Snap clearly believes there’s something to this idea, since it keeps on trying. That’s despite a report from Alex Heath (a Cult of Mac veteran) noting that it expects to only sell “low tens of thousands” of units.

Apple, for its part, has been considering creating some smart glasses for a while now. Unlike Snap, these would seemingly be built around AR first and foremost. In the past couple of years, Apple has acquired a startup focused on making lenses for wearable headset displays. It has also sought out experts in sensory perception, with the possibility that such a scientist would be used to help develop such AR glasses.

For now, though, the problem I see is the same one that existed with Google Glass. That is that these glasses just aren’t particularly nice to look at. I can’t imagine anyone but a few would-be influencers buying them, and probably not wearing them for long.

Going back to the earliest VR headsets, Silicon Valley has been obsessed with head-mounted displays. But no-one seems any closer to cracking the formula to make them cool.