Augmenting Reality with Snap’s Spectacles 3

Snapchat's dual-camera, first-person companion eyewear gets an upgrade

With two stereoscopic lenses that are capable of capturing 3D photos and video clips, Snap‘s newest eyewear release, Spectacles 3, takes a substantial step toward the future of augmented reality. Snap Lab (Snap’s hardware division and the parent of Spectacles) hasn’t produced a toy here. While fun—and certainly beneficial to content-makers, videographers and anyone interested in filming in the first person—this most recent iteration declares the tech company and social media brand’s intention of continuously breaking ground in the AR and VR space. The optical accessory’s fashion-forward design, with a matte-finished steel composition, certainly telegraphs this, too.

Before understanding what these glasses can do, it makes sense to dismiss what they aren’t capable of doing yet. With Spectacles 3, you cannot augment reality within the glasses, or layover filters or effect within the lenses. When you press the button at either temple, you record 10-second videos. Multiple presses extend the recording time up to one minute. By holding down the button, a 3D photo is captured. A sensor new to Spectacles establishes a unique relationship to depth and dimension, allowing these images to wiggle.

Spectacles 3 shoot 60 frames per second in a resolution of 1216 by 1216 pixels. Four internal mics pick up any accompanying audio. As for photos, resolution stretches to 1642 by 1642 pixels. Onboard, four gigabytes of storage carry the equivalent to 1,200 photos or 100 videos. All of this tech is built into the temples, hinges and arms. It’s the most elegant integration thus far, but—both when capturing and not—it was our experience that many who stepped in front of our line of sight were caught off guard by the fact that they were looking at two tiny cameras affixed to glasses. Perhaps with an increase in the camera-glasses, this will be less jarring.

It’s very easy to connect the Spectacles to Snapchat—a move that’s necessary in order to access and modify the captures. When paired with the app (through Bluetooth built-in WiFi), all photos and videos can be wirelessly transmitted to the app’s Memories section. There, experimentation begins. Users can apply one of many augmented reality filters or effects. The list includes an animated phoenix that flies forward into any linear perspective and a complete coat of bending rainbow colors. The depth captured by the aforementioned photo sensor allow certain AR accents to appear behind objects in the real world—integrated rather than layered. Snap worked with official lens creators Clay Weishaar and Cross Lucid, but will allow anyone to develop more through Lens Studio.

It’s these manipulations of depth perception that mark the most interesting technological development, but there’s still a long way to go. From a design perspective, it’s hard not to appreciate the silhouette of the glasses, and regarding comfort, the addition of adjustable nose-pads should make the fit better. Other hardware elements—which include a sophisticated fold-out leather wallet that charges the Spectacles and a 3D-viewer (much like cardboard) that slips around them for photo viewing—reinforce Snap’s push toward elevated product design.

Spectacles 3 can be pre-ordered now, in mineral and carbon colorways, through their online shop. Each $380 purchase includes the charging case and cable, as well as the 3D-viewer accessory. They are expected to ship in one week.

Images by David Graver