Snapchat enters the sunglasses game
VANISHING message service Snapchat announced over the weekend it will launch a line of video-catching sunglasses, a spin on Glass eyewear abandoned by Google more than a year ago.
The California-based company, which also announced it is changing its name to Snap Inc, said in an online post that its Spectacles will be “available soon”, with media reports pegging the price at US$130 a pair.
“We’ve been working for the past few years to develop a totally new type of camera,” said the post by Team Snap.
“Spectacles are sunglasses with an integrated video camera that makes it easy to create Memories.”
Snap earlier this year added a way to save images as “Memories”, a shift for a service known for messages that disappear after being viewed.
Spectacles were billed as having one of the smallest wireless cameras in the world, capable of capturing a day’s worth of “Snaps” on a single charge.
The sunglasses connect to Snap software wirelessly using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections.
Spectacles cameras take video from the perspective of wearers, boast a 115-degree field of view, and capture snippets of video intended for sharing at the service.
“Imagine one of your favourite memories,” Snap said.
“What if you could go back and see that memory the way you experienced it? That’s why we built Spectacles.”
Snap estimates it has more than 100 million users globally of the service for sending videos, images and text messages which vanish after being viewed. Some reports say it generates 10 billion video views per day.
Google in January of last year halted sales of its internet-linked eyewear Glass, which became available in the United States in early 2014.
The technology titan put the brakes on an “explorer” program that let people interested in dabbling with Glass –hotly anticipated by some, mocked by others – buy eyewear for $1500 apiece.
The Glass test program was later expanded to Britain, but no general consumer version was released.
Glass connected to the internet using Wi-Fi hot spots or, more typically, by being wirelessly tethered to mobile phones.
Google Glass had been hit with criticism due to concerns about privacy since the devices were capable of capturing pictures and video.
Spectacles, expected to be in limited supply when they hit the market, would put pressure on GoPro, whose mini-cameras are designed to let people capture video of endeavors from personal perspectives.
GoPro last week unveiled new Hero5 cameras, a drone called Karma and a cloud-based service for editing and sharing video in the hope of lifting profits, which have been battered by competition from all sides.
GoPro became an early hit with extreme sports enthusiasts who used the mini-cameras to film their exploits, and went on to win over teens and young adults interested in sharing videos on YouTube and social networks. – WHEN he booked his tour, Swiss lawyer Rafael Studer hadn’t seriously considered the option of jumping out of a Russian-made helicopter at 2000 metres strapped to a North Korean soldier.
“It wasn’t really part of the plan,” the 27-year-old admitted after landing his tandem parachute jump at North Korea’s first aviation show held in the eastern port city of Wonsan.
The two-day festival was part of efforts by the sanctions-strapped and diplomatically isolated country to boost hard-currency tourism in the Wonsan region.
Coming just weeks after the North conducted its fifth nuclear test, triggering global condemnation and the threat of fresh sanctions, the show drew several hundred foreign aviation enthusiasts who paid for brief flights in Soviet-era aircraft.
So it was that Studer found himself half-hanging out the door of a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, 2000 metres above the newly renovated and upgraded Wonsan airport, strapped to a North Korean military parachutist.
“There was a ‘what the hell am I doing moment’ and then we jumped. Terrifying at first, but then surprisingly enjoyable,” he said.
Studer landed gently, unlike Dutch flight instructor Niels Linthout, who landed barefoot – “I lost my flip-flops” – and face down underneath his tandem partner, much to the amusement of the large crowd.
A number of foreign professional skydivers took part in the show, including American Douglas Jaques, a 68-year-old veteran of more than 11,400 jumps.
The US State Department strongly advises US citizens against travelling to North Korea in any capacity, citing a “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention”.
In March this year, American student Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel.
Jacques said the travel advisory had given him “pause for thought” but the prospect of skydiving “in the most exotic location I could think of” had proved too shiny a lure.
“It’s like the warning on a drug label,” he said of the State Department warning. “They have to cover the worst-case scenario.”
Jacques and fellow pro skydiver Klaus Renz from Germany said the equipment used by the North Korean parachutists was generally high quality.
“The canopy designs are copies, but they’re good copies,” said Renz. “They seem very well organised.”
This undated image courtesy of Snap Inc shows the company’s Spectacles video-catching sunglasses.
Parachutists perform an aerial display during the second day of the Wonsan Friendship Air Festival in Wonsan on September 25.