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Snapchat has ditched the smartphone for spectacles at a pretty cool price

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

Remember the failed, or 'in progress' Google Glasses? Well, strip them down to just the audio and video, turn them into sunglasses and you've got a revolutionary product that is a whole lot cheaper. At just $130 (or $129.99 to be precise), Snap Inc (Snapchat has officially rebranded, for those wondering) has released their first hardware product.

With this move, Snapchat has now transcended the smartphone. In fact, Snapchat is now a camera company, as per CEO Evan Spiegel. It's called Spectacles and there is even a whole website dedicated to it. The name change is a nod to the company that is now moving beyond just the app.

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The snapchat spectacle

Spectacles will come in a one-size-fits-all and will be available in three colours black, teal and coral and be available this fall. So, instead of holding up your smartphone or blocking out the sun with your gigantic iPad (like some people do), you can now just tap a button on the side of the glasses to start a recording.

The camera will be using a 115-degree lens, wider than a smartphone or even a regular camera) and the videos captured will be circular. It's unclear whether Snap will update their app to allow the viewing of circular views or just crop the video to fit vertically.

The videos produced by the spectacles will be circular

Snap Inc CEO Evan Spiegel confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that that there will be limited distribution and the company won't depend on it for revenue anytime soon. It's essentially a 'toy' at the moment.

This could mean that the Spectacles are just an experiment or that they could end up somewhat like Google Glasses. Something everyone covets and everyone can technically buy, but something that is hard to come by.

Through the looking glass

Spiegel told the WSJ that "the images that result are fundamentally different". He went on to make the point that this type of recording frees ones hands to do other activities such as petting a dog or holding on to a railing or even hugging babies.

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The first prototype was tested by Spiegel himself, back in 2015, while hiking with his fiancee. "When I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes-it was unbelievable," Spiegel said, describing his first experience. "It's one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it's another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I'd ever come to feeling like I was there again"

The future of photography?

Snapchat is popular, and the Spectacles at a lower entry point that Google Glasses, is sure to be a hit. In fact, Snapchat has more than 150 million daily users. That's about 15 million more than Twitter, which, in turn, is attracting buyers despite its its flagging projections.

The sunglasses sync wirelessly to the smartphone you already own, making these pictures and videos easily shareable. "We're going to take a slow approach to rolling them out," Spiegel told the WSJ. "It's about us figuring out if it fits into people's lives and seeing how they like it."

VR, transparent displays and augmented reality could all take this tech to the next level

If these are popular, which they are likely to be, at least in the initial phase, then this may be huge for the company. If Spectacles can usurp the space of the smartphone camera, then it has won.

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Once it begins a hardware revenue generator for the company, the company can move on to greater things like possibly including transparent displays in the next edition of the glasses. Or even some sort of viewing software in the glasses. Maybe even VR or augmented reality? The potential advancements are many and the future is just beginning to unfold.

Snap Inc may have hit the jackpot here, but only time will tell. For now, their biggest selling point is the price itself.

First published: 24 September 2016, 11:24 IST