Snapchat, the popular photo and video messaging service is releasing its first hardware product this fall: a pair of glasses. And oh, the company is also renaming itself to Snap Inc.
Called Spectacles, they are a pair of sunglasses whose sturdy frame conceals a camera that can record 10-second video clips from the first-person point of view. The recording starts at a single tap from the finger and subsequent taps record new clips.
What makes the camera in Spectacles different from the one in your smartphone, other than the point of view and leaving your hands mostly free, is that it uses a 115-degree-angle lens, which is wider than the lenses in most smartphone cameras. It also records a circular video, closer to what human vision is actually like, compared to the rectangular or square recordings made by most cameras.
And that difference is probably quite significant, as CEO Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal on Friday night in Venice, California, talking about a hike he did early last year while testing a prototype: “We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes—it was unbelievable. 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 company released a promotional video for Spectacles on YouTube.
According to the Journal, the glasses will cost $130 and will release this fall, but won’t be distributed widely. Spiegel wants to take a slow approach to rolling them out, depending on how people like them. Significantly, taking control of the production of images — the lifeblood of Snap Inc — could have far-reaching implications for the company and its services.
The change of its name from Snapchat, made official through Twitter, is to reflect the diversification of the company’s offerings. Its Twitter page now calls it “a camera company,” and it seems the change was thought of at least two months ago, since the account was set up in July.