Snap's new take on its Spectacles are fully committing to true augmented reality with a pair of smart glasses aimed an overlying the real world with all kinds of graphics.
Targeted at creators, as the new Spectacles won't be available to any old member of the public, the glasses feature proper AR "dual waveglide" displays for superimposing effects over what the wearer is looking at.
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These effects will be created in Snapchat's software tools, meaning the AR features could be used in for all sorts of things from serving up virtual information about real places, to fun artistic features like digital butterflies that 'land' on the wearer's hand.
Tapping the vast potential of @Snap’s AR platform, the next generation of Spectacles allow you to overlay Lenses directly onto the world in front of you, for an immersive AR experience. #SnapPartnerSummithttps://t.co/r4XnSC886z pic.twitter.com/UTDDoxwBOOMay 20, 2021
Unlike the previous versions of Spectacles, which donned bright and playful designs, the AR version looks sharp and serious. It swapped rounded frames and obvious lenses for an angular aesthetic and subtle, front-facing cameras you might not notice at a glance.
The frame also packs four built-in microphones, plus two stereo speakers. As for navigation, there's a small touchpad on the side that lets you switch between a library of AR effects.
According to The Verge's report on these new smart glasses, AR Spectacles weigh 134 grams, reach up to 2,000 nits of display brightness and last about 30 minutes on a charge.
These specs are bad news for anyone who's been waiting for AR glasses you'll actually want to wear. The battery life is dismal for daily use, and 134 grams or 0.3 pounds is a little hefty for headgear.
Perhaps that's why the glasses are only available to developers and creators, rather than the general public. It seems the company is hoping to recruit talented AR creators who can build attractive experiences though the Lenses platform.
Of course, Snap didn't say the limited availability of AR Spectacles has anything to do with the sluggish sales of previous models. The first-, second- and third-generation models failed to gain momentum for any number of possible reasons. Not only did the design feel gimmicky, but the smart glasses only benefitted Snapchat users.
They didn't come cheap, either. The latest-generation Spectacles 3 cost $380 to buy outright, which is a considerable ask for what's essentially an app accessory.
There's no word yet on what the AR Spectacles will cost, but we'd bet the new features will make it pricier than previous models.