Snap, the company behind Snapchat, has its fair share of experience with wearable smart glasses, having released three generations of its Spectacles. So far, all three generations of Spectacles were dedicated to recording video for the Snapchat service, but that’s about to change with the next generation.
The new Spectacles will be the company’s first-ever AR smartglasses, featuring dual 3D waveguide displays, two RGB cameras, four built-in microphones, two stereo speakers, and touchpad controls.
Taking advantage of the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, Snap wants to give users the ability to overlay augmented reality content on the real world without being tethered to a computer or hauling around a large, attention-grabbing device that looks more like the cop helmet from Minority Report than sunglasses.
Snap even acquired WaveOptics, a company producing waveguides and projectors for AR glasses, for over $500 million. “This really represents a long-term investment in the future of Spectacles,” said Snap CEO Evan Spiegel in an interview with CNBC.
Because Snap is prioritizing form over function, there are a few important catches that all users will have to live with. To start with, the AR Spectacles last only 30 minutes per charge, making prolonged immersion in virtual content impossible. On top of this, the dual 3D waveguide displays have a diagonal FOV (field of view) of just 26.3 degrees. To put the number into perspective, HoloLens 2 has a diagonal FOV of 52 degrees.
Snap is aware of these issues, and that’s one reason why the company is not making the new AR smartglasses commercially available just yet. Instead, Snap plans to send around 1,000 units to AR developers, who will be able to easily turn their artistic visions into virtual reality experiences using Lens Studio software.