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Think Snapchat’s Spectacles are weird? Then you’re old. And DON’T think Google Glass. It’s where mobile is going.

September 26th, 2016 |  Published in Digital and Mobile Technology  |  1 Comment

snapchat-specs

 

Eric De Grasse
Chief Technology Officer

 

26 September 2016 (Tel Aviv) – So what do you think about Snap’s first hardware product – their newly announced Spectacles? Maybe you’re thinking about Google Glass, the spectacularly failed hardware project that took the world by storm for not much more than a minute?

Well, it’s not about your (or my) opinion, but whether Snapchat’s userbase is going to like it. Those users also happen to be younger people than most people who read this blog, or are interested in tech journalism in general.

The newly christenend Snap Inc. isn’t making it a secret they’re going after teens – just check out their commercial. It features a bunch of teens, having fun on their skateboards, capturing every moment with their sunglasses:

 

Here is what Spectacles look to a young Snapchat user:

  • They’re sunglasses that come in a variety of fun colors and designs.
  • They look simple but stylish and are in the same price range as a pair of Ray-Ban’s.
    Also, they connect to the app you’re already using all day – but now you don’t have to pull out your phone anymore.
  • For $130 there’s no friction anymore to share every part of your life with your friends. It’s a compelling deal.
  • Sure, the product’s not perfect – you need to charge them, and most people aren’t going to wear sunglasses at night. But will that keep young consumers away from a frictionless life-sharing device?

 

I am pretty busy covering DLD Tel Aviv so just a few points courtesy of colleague Ben Bajarin from Tech.pinions, and a few closing thoughts:

 

  • Many will compare this to Google Glass. Don’t. This is more similar to GoPro.
  • More importantly, in the eyes of their target demographic, Snapchat is much cooler than Google.
  • A cool quote from Miranda Kerr in the Wall Street Journal about using a GoPro on vacation: “My first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. 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.”
  • BANG! Anyone who has used a GoPro understand the value of that statement.
  • And lots of kids have GoPros, especially active ones. They use it to record themselves skateboarding, bike riding, hiking, skiing/snowbarding, swimming, etc. We may as well rename this generation “The Capture Generation”. That is the demographic Snap Inc. understands. These glasses are born out of millenial and Gen Z behavior with their devices and the urge to capture and share as many experiences as possible.
  • And reality check: the first generation of any product is hard to make definitive claims regarding its future. You need to be very long on Snap Inc. in order to buy their story about these glasses. That being said, the concept is sound and having capture devices on our person, on our eyes, makes sense at least some day in the future.
  • And even though a low-barrier to entry the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem creates makes it easy for anyone to be in hardware, hardware will remain hard to do. Just because anyone can, doesn’t mean they should.

On an end note, one thing I found interesting was where the cameras are located. If you notice, they are located about eye width apart. Having two cameras is a key factor in capturing 3D and VR content. Perhaps this is a broader signal of where Snap intends to go.

 

Augmented reality

AR was a dominant technology at DLD this year.  It deserves a full post.  Just a few points:

There are lots of approaches to using augmented reality for fusing physical and simulated reality. But what’s been missing till now is a fast, intuitive transmission of commands to the computer. To date, much of the focus has been on touch sensitive touchscreens. These, however, mean the user needs to be in constant “close contact” with the computer. On the other hand, there’s speech recognition: This allows greater flexibility, but it’s largely limited to individual users.

Gesture-based control of devices by hand signals closes this gap. Thereby gestural control opens the 3rd dimension, breaking free of the two-dimensional user interface. This technology was developed by Google and Infineon over the last few years under the internal name “Soli”. A 9 x 12.5 mm radar chip from Infineon sends and receives waves that reflect off the user’s finger. Fine hand movements, like winding a watch. Just a few decades ago it took a parabolic antenna with a 50 m diameter to do what the chip’s technology can do today.

Radar offers unique peculiarities:

  •   Insensitive to the light
  •   Can transmit over plastic materials like polycarbonate
  •   3D gesture recognition possible
  •   Recognition of overlapping fingers
  •   Sub-millimeter resolution with micro-Doppler and time analysis

Google had announced this work earlier this year at its annual developer conference, Project Soli  In fact, Google had briefly touched upon Project Soli last year during the developer conference though the company made no further announcement about the project since. But this year it showed off the new Soli chip which incorporates the sensor and antenna array into an ultra-compact 8x10mm package. It falls under Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Projects) and it showed dramatic improvements to its gesture tracking technology, and its touch-sensitive fabric technology, Project Jacquard.

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