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Tech Times | Snapchat’s playful shot at sunglasses

Published:Monday | October 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM


A paparazzi photograph of Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel prematurely revealed the Los Angeles company's first piece of consumer electronics: a pair of video-camera sunglasses.

Though it spoiled the surprise delivered two weeks ago, the fact that Spiegel felt comfortable wearing the shades where he did - in public with his supermodel fiancÈe a month ago - suggests the gadget may succeed where similar products from rivals fell short.

Google, Facebook and others that have released head-mounted technology have presumed their tools would get people to significantly adjust their behavior. With a product that looks like ordinary sunglasses with some odd decoration on the hinges, Snapchat is going for a softer nudge. It's encouraging people to try a familiar-looking product to experiment with a new way of taking videos.

Spiegel may have a plan for smartglasses as sophisticated as Google Glass or Facebook's Oculus Rift, but he's starting off with a goofy name, one feature, an on-trend look, a lower price and no public goal of doing anything more than helping people preserve memories.

If he's right, Snapchat Spectacles could become the first piece of high-tech headgear that people want to wear and feel comfortable being around.

Spectacles integrates a small video camera and a notification light in the corners where lenses meet hinges. The camera wirelessly transmits 10-second clips to Snapchat's image-sharing app, one of the world's most popular mobile services.

Though they don't facilitate selfies, Spectacles captures wide-angle circular video, enabling viewers to rotate their mobile devices to see more of a scene than a smartphone video does. The sunglasses will cost US$130 when they launch this fall.