Snap Intros $380 Two-Camera Spectacles — A Fashion Accessory for Snapchat AR Content

Snap is doubling down on trying to make its Snapchat-enabled Spectacles camera sunglasses a high-end social-media status symbol.

On Tuesday, the company announced Spectacles 3, the third generation of its wearable cameras designed to capture 3D video and photos and seamlessly upload them to Snapchat. The latest models include two HD cameras, designed to capture three-dimensional images that will let users apply new augmented-reality effects.

Spectacles 3 are priced at $380 — 2.5 times the starting $150 price point of the current generation. The new glasses are slated to ship this fall and are available to pre-order now at spectacles.com.

Why is the money-losing company, which has sold far fewer Spectacles than it initially expected, continuing to invest in hardware? The answer seems to be that Snap, which calls itself a “camera company,” sees a strategic need to have a foothold in the content-capture business.

Snap clearly is positioning Spectacles 3 as a fashion accessory — note that it gave a first-look to Vogue for its September issue. Even if the Snapchat specs never achieve mass-market adoption, Snap would appear to be hoping Spectacles 3 will be coveted by influencers and power users to produce cool AR posts for the Snapchat app.

And Snap isn’t planning to produce a slew of Spectacles 3. The new generation will be a limited-edition product, according to the company, with a production run that is only a fraction of the roughly 200,000 first-gen Spectacles it had sold as of last April to date. Note that in the third quarter of 2017, Snap took a write-off of nearly $40 million related to Spectacles for unsold inventory and excess purchasing commitments.

To record video, users tap either button (up to 60 seconds continuously) or press and hold for a photo. The Spectacles 3 devices also include a four-microphone array and LED indicator lights to notify people when a user is recording. The glasses also include a 3D viewer for watching Snaps captured by the Spectacles.

Video and photos captured by Spectacles 3 transfer into the Snapchat’s Memories section, where users can add new lighting, landscapes, and other AR effects to an entire scene. The Snaps also can be exported to the camera roll in circular, horizontal, square and virtual-reality formats.

Spectacles 3 come in two colors: carbon, described as a “monochromatic black with a semi-matte finish and high-gloss details”; and mineral, “inspired by cosmetic hues with a hint-of-gold frame.” The glasses also include a full-grain leather charging case equipped with a standard USB-C charging cable.

The company had reportedly been aiming to release a two-camera version of Spectacles by the end of 2018, suggesting the product faced delays.

Snap continues to bleed red ink, and recently raised $1.265 billion in debt financing to provide working capital and potentially fund acquisitions. But the company has managed to return to user growth in recent quarters, after a poorly received Snapchat app redesign in 2018, and in the second quarter of 2019 posted the fifth consecutive quarter year-over-year improvement in adjusted EBITDA.

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