No one’s going to pay $380 for decent point-of-view video glasses and some trippy filters. But that’s kind of the point of Snapchat Spectacles 3. They’re merely a stepping stone towards true augmented reality eyewear — a public hardware beta for the Snap Lab R&D team that Apple and Facebook aren’t getting as they tinker in their bunkers.
Still, I hoped for something that could at least unlock the talents of forward-thinking video creators. Yet the unpredictable and uncontrollable AR effects sadly fail to make use of Spectacles‘ fashionable form factor in premium steel. The clunky software requires clips be uploaded for processing and then re-downloaded before you can apply the 10 starter effects like a rainbow landscape filter or a shimmering fantasy falcon. This all makes producing AR content a chore instead of a joy for something only briefly novel.
Spectacles 3 go on sale today for $380 in black ‘Carbon’ or rose gold-ish ‘Mineral’ color schemes on Spectacles.com, Neiman Marcus, and Ron Robinson in the UK, shipping in a week. Announced in August, they’re sunglasses with two stereoscopic lenses capable of capturing depth to produce “3D” photos, and videos you can add AR effects to on your phone. You also get a very nice folds-flat leather USB-C charging case that powers up the glasses four times, and a Google Cardboard-style VR viewer.
“Spectacles 3 is a limited production run. We’re not looking for massive sales here. We’re targeting people who are excited about these effects — creative storytellers” says Matt Hanover of the Snap Lab team.
Gen 1 featured a “toy-like design to get people used to wearing tech on their face”, while Gen 2 and 2.1 had a more subdued look abandoning the coral color schemes to push mainstream adoption. What Gen 3 can’t do is force a $40 million write-off due to poor sales, as V1 did after only shipping 220,000 with hundreds of thousands more gathering dust somewhere. Snap is already losing $227 million per quarter as it scrambles to break even.
So it seems with Spectacles 3 that Snap is gathering data and biding its time, trying to avoid burning too much cash until it can build a version that overlays effects atop a user’s view through the glasses. “We’re still able to get feedback from the customer and inform the future of Spectacles. That’s really the goal for us” Hanover confirms.
His CEO Evan Spiegel agrees, telling me on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt that it would be 10 years until we see augmented reality glasses worthy of mainstream consumer adoption. That’s a long time for an unprofitable company to spend competing to invest in R&D versus cash-rich companies like Facebook and Apple. The battle for early adopters could start much sooner, though, as The Information reports Apple plans to launch its AR/VR headset in 2022 and more portable AR glasses in 2023
Spectacles could be worth the steep $380 if you’re a videographer for a living, perhaps making futuristic social media clips like Karen X Cheng, a creator Snap hired to demonstrate the device’s potential. They’re cool enough looking that you could wear them around Cannes or Coachella without people getting weirded out like they did with Google Glass. And as Snap’s Lens Studio lets anyone build 3D effects for Spectacles 3, perhaps we’ll see some filters and imaginary characters that are more than just a momentary gimmick.
But for those simply seeking first-person camera glasses, I’d still recommend the Spectacles 2 at $150 to $200 depending on style which remain available. The 3D features don’t carry the weight of paying double the price for Spec 3s. And at least the 2nd-gen Specs are waterproof, which make them great for ocean play with fun underwater shooting when you don’t want to risk losing or fizzling your phone.
“We’re testing the price point and the premium aesthetic to see if it lands with this demographic” Hanover says. But Snap’s Director Of Communications Liz Markman notes that “there isn’t this perfect one-to-one overlap with the core Snap users.”
The result is that Spectacles 3 are really more for Snap’s benefit than yours.
Slick Eyewear, Now Where’s The AR?
The Spectacles 3 software is disappointing, but you’ll be delighted when you open the box. Slick black packaging reveal sturdily built metal sunglasses with a luxury matte finish. As they magnetically dislodge from their charging case, you definitely get they sense you’re trying on something futuristic.
The style concurs, with a flat black bar at the top connecting the round lenses with a camera on both corners. Unlike the old Specs that sat right on your nose, feeling heavy at times, Spectacles 3 offers adjustable acetate non-slip nose tips to keep the weight off. All the tech is built discreetly into the hinges and temples without appearing too chunky.
Tap the button either arm, and LED light swooshes in a circle to let people know you’re recording a video for 10 seconds, with multiple presses growing that to up to 60. Tap and hold to shoot a photo, and the light blinks. There’s no obnoxious yellow rubber ring to shout “these are cameras”, and the defused LEDs are more subtle than Gen 2’s dots while remaining an obvious enough signal to passersby so they’re not creepy.
One charge powers up to 70 captures and transfers to your phone over a combined Bluetooth built-in Wifi connection. The 4 gigabyte storage holds up to 100 videos or 1200 photos, and Spectacles 3 even have GPS and GLOSNASS on-board. A 4-mic array picks up audio from others and your own voice, though they’re susceptible to windshear if you’re biking or running. They shoot at 60-frames per second in 1216 x 1216 pixels resolution while photos come in at 1642 x 1642
The magnetically-sealing folding leather USB-C charging case is my favorite part. I wish I could get an even flatter one without a battery in it for my other sunglasses. It’s a huge improvement on the unpocketable bulky triangular case of the previous versions.
A Toy Not Fun Enough For The Price
So far so good, right? But then it comes time to actually see and augment what you shot.
Pairing and syncing is much easier than Gen 1. The glasses forge a Bluetooth connection, then spawn a WiFi network for getting media to your phone faster.
If you just want to share to Snapchat, you’re in luck. Spectacles content posts to Stories or messages in its cool circular format that lets viewers tilt their phones around while always staying full-screen to reveal the edges of your shots. Otherwise, you still have to go through the chore of exporting from Snapchat to your camera roll. Spectacles can at least now export in a variety of croppings for better sharing on Instagram and elsewhere.
What’s new are the 3D photos and videos. They utilize the space between the stereoscopic cameras in the corners of Spectacles employ parallax to sense the depth of a scene. After tapping the 3D button on a photo, you can wiggle the perspective of the image around to almost see around the edges of what you’re looking at. Spectacles will automatically pan back and forth for you, and export 3D photos as short Boomerang-esque six-second videos.
Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t get much sense of depth from most of the 3D photos I shot or saw. It takes a very particular kind of three-dimensional object from the right angle in the right light to much sense of movement from the wiggle. Snapchat’s algorithms also had a bad habit of mistakenly assigning bits of the foreground and background to each other, breaking the illusion. Occasionally you’ll have someone’s ear or their hair left behind and disembodied by the 3D effect.
Don’t expect these to flood social media or convince prospective Spectacles buyers. The 3D selfies you can shoot on Snapchat for free look better anyways.
The biggest problem comes with the delay when playing with 3D videos. Snapchat has to do the depth processing on its servers, so you have to wait for your video to upload, get scanned, and be re-downloaded before you can apply the 3D AR filters. On WiFi that takes about 35 seconds per 10 second video, which is quite a bore. It takes forever over a mobile connection. That means you often won’t be able to apply the filters and see how they look until you’re home and unable to reshoot anything.
The filter set is also limited and haphazard. You can add a 3D bird or balloons around you, wander through golden snow or neon arcs, overlay flower projections or rainbow waves, or sprinkle on sparkles and light-bending blobs. While the bird is cute, and the rainbows and flowers are remarkably psychedelic, none of them are more than briefly entertaining.
The 3D objects often glitch through real pieces of scenery, and you can’t control them at all. No summoning the bird mid-video. My favorite trick, learned from Karen X Cheng, was to export unedited and filtered versions of a video and splice them together on my computer as scene in my demo video above. You can’t actually do that from within Snapchat.
One extra feature the team is working on is to let you see a special colored light flash on the glasses’ internal recording-on signal to alert you to incoming Snaps from certain friends. If that’s popular, would Snap try giving us more notifications through that light? Hanover says “potentially in the future.”
Snap will have to build a lot cooler filters with interactivity if they’re going to compel creators to fork over $380 for Spectacles 3. It could hope to rely on its Lens Studio community platform, but so few developers or users will have the glasses that most will stick to making and using filters for phones.
Spectacles 3 are too expensive to be a toy, but don’t excel at being much more. Videography influencers might enjoy having a pair in their tool bag. But it’s hard to imagine anyone not sharing content professionally paying for the gadget.
Iteration vs Ideation
“We’re now pushing to elevate the technology and the design to master depth technically” Hanover tells me. “Holing ourselves up within an R&D center for years and years? That’s not our approach. It’s important to meet the customer where they are today and continue to iterate and get that feedback.”
But this iteration doesn’t feel like Snap meeting the customer where they are. That raises the question of whether Snapchat is really getting enough data out of the whole endeavor to justify publicly releasing Spectacles at all. The company will have to hope that testing short-term is worth thinking short-term, when it’s trying to win the long-term war in augmented reality eyewear.
GOOGLE OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES ANDROID 11 FOR ANDROID TV
A few weeks ago, Google officially released its latest system, Android 11 for smartphones. Today, the company announced that Android 11 will now be available for Android TVs. However, the Android 11 for TV is not a direct copy of Android 11 for smartphones. There are some features that are exclusive to the large screen. According to Google, it will partner with multiple OEMs and Android 11 on TV will be available in a few months. However, those who already have the ADT-3 Developer Kit can get the update today.
This system for Android TVs will retain most of the basic features of the Android 11 for smartphones. This system will come with better memory management and one-time permissions for secure workability. Google also did more work on privacy features to reduce the system’s vulnerability.
In addition, the Android 11 for Android TVs will come with an “Auto Low Latency Mode and low latency media decoding”. This system will also bring a new Tuner Framework with updated Media CAS support. Furthermore, this system will support gamepads, a feature that will be important for Stadia on the TV. Developers of Android TV apps can seamlessly test their apps with Google’s “test harness mode for Android TV”.
According to Google, the Android 11 system allows better control over TV functions. The company said the “…new framework functionality for managing System LEDs and physical microphone mute buttons also facilitate integrations for far-field microphone enabled devices”.
Google Chrome prepares new tab groups feature that creates groups automatically
Months after announcing it, Google finally rolled out tab groups widely in the past couple of weeks. Now, an improvement could be coming to Chrome’s tab group feature — the ability to recreate them automatically.
In the latest Chrome Canary release, a new flag is present that describes a feature Google is working on. That flag, titled “tab groups auto create,” is one that has had us scratching our heads since it popped onto our radar earlier this week.
Google’s description, too, unfortunately doesn’t help matters. the company simply explains that the feature “automatically creates groups for users, if tab groups are enabled” in Chrome. What does that mean? We’re not entirely sure, but there are a few possibilities!
For one, Google might be able to remember tab groups from a previous session and drop them into a group when opened. Alternatively, Google could intelligently create groups based on similar types of tabs. At this point, it’s all up in the air. We can say pretty confidently, however, that this feature is not live in the latest Canary release.
Facebook Is Apparently Adding Instagram Stories to Its Key Application
Facebook has built it no key that it would like to entwine Instagram into its principal blue app as a great deal as possible (to some Instagram users’ chagrin.) Its most recent experiment evidently requires placing Instagram stories right on Facebook.
In accordance to a report in the Verge, some Facebook customers have lately started looking at Instagram stories in their Fb story feeds. A Fb representative apparently verified the news to Matt Navarra, a social media marketplace commentator and advisor, and stated that it was a restricted examination. The representative added that Facebook would be listening to feedback from its group on the prospective new characteristic.
In a screenshot posted by a Twitter consumer and Navarra on Friday, Fb seemingly points out that not just anyone can view an Instagram story on Facebook. In get to do so, consumers have to website link their Instagram accounts to Facebook and have this viewing placing turned on. Fb states that men and women who don’t abide by a user on Instagram will not be ready to see that user’s tales.
Fb also purportedly pressured that even however tales will be in two sites, users’ overall practical experience would not improve. That is mainly because people will nevertheless essentially be sharing their tales with the similar persons on Facebook and Instagram. In addition, Instagram stories on Facebook (which will have a pink and orange circle) will surface with a user’s Instagram take care of. And even though the tales will be seen on Fb, end users will see all tale sights and replies on Instagram.
In new many years, Facebook has labored to convey all of its popular apps, which involve WhatsApp and Instagram, nearer with each other. Very last thirty day period, Facebook released a new exam working experience on Instagram messaging for some users. The new experience up-to-date the look of Instagram immediate messages and promoted the likelihood of chatting with individuals who use Fb.
Who knows, possibly in the foreseeable future we won’t have an application named Instagram or Fb. We’ll just have a person giant purple and blue app, owned by Facebook, that does almost everything.
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