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Snap Spectacles 3 review: here we go again

- It's been three years since the first version

of Snapchat Spectacles,

and that first edition had a lot of buzz

but it didn't sell too many units.

Last year, a second version kind of came and went.

Now Snap is back with Spectacles 3.

It's a redesigned, more powerful

and much pricier take on wearable computing.

These things cost three hundred and eighty dollars,

up from a hundred and fifty dollars for Spectacles 2.

Snap says they're intended

for a more fashion forward and creative audience,

but what can these things actually do

and who should really buy them?

(funky music)

So let's start with the design.

Compared to Spectacles 2,

which looked a lot like a toy,

Spectacles 3 feels much more serious.

They come in just two colors,

black and a kind of tan that Snap calls mineral.

And they have a new steel frame.

I find that the steel frame isn't super comfortable,

particularly over a long period of time.

There's something that would just kind of

dig into various parts of my head

as I was walking around town with them.

And as far as the design,

it might just be a little too fashion forward,

at least for me.

There's something about this giant steel bar

running across the top of my forehead

that feels a little bit insect like or maybe even alien.

Now let's talk abut the tech in Spectacles 3.

The big marquee feature this year is a second camera,

and what that second camera means

is that Spectacles can sense depth for the first time.

So Spectacles now have a bunch of filters

that kind of integrate the real world with Snap's.

For example, there's one filter that puts hearts everywhere

and as you're walking through the video,

those hearts will kind of bounce off you.

There's another flower filter that projects flowers

onto the ground and the shape kind of changes

with the topography.

When I talked with Snap's CEO, Evan Spiegel,

about Spectacles recently,

he told me he saw them as a breakthrough for the company

because it's the first time that Snap has been able

to integrate computing with the real world.

Unfortunately, though, that integration

is only happening after the fact.

I can't put on my Spectacles and just see Snap filters

over layed on top of the world.

Instead, I have to open my phone,

import Snaps from my glasses to the phone,

and only then can I tap the edit button

and start swiping through the filters.

It's just a couple more steps

than it feels like it should take.

So there are gonna be about 10 of these filters

available at launch that are exclusive to Spectacles 3,

and I'd say that none of them

has that immediate iconic appeal

of past hit Snapchat filters,

like the dancing hot dog or the gender swap.

But Snap is gonna let independent developers

build their own filters that incorporate depth perception,

and it'll be interesting to see what they come up with.

In the meantime, though, it feels mostly like a novelty.

Spectacles 3 can use the second camera in another way,

and it's by taking what Snap calls 3D photos.

So you put on your Spectacles,

you press and hold one of these camera buttons

and it will capture a sort of three-dimensional image

of the world around you.

Once you've done that, you can build this cardboard viewer

that is included with Spectacles 3,

slide a phone in and then kind of click through

all of the 3D photos that you've taken.

It's sort of similar

to one of those old View-Master gadgets,

and it's based on previous things

like Google Cardboard or Gear VR.

It's a somewhat novel way of looking through images,

but I don't know if, at this point,

it's much more than a novelty.

I think Spectacles 3 are a meaningful iteration

of a product that is only going to get better over time.

At the same time, they're definitely a product

that most people shouldn't buy.

So why does Snap keeping making these?

I asked Evan Spiegel that, and he was up front with me.

He said that he thinks that these kind of AR glasses

aren't gonna hit mainstream adoption for 10 years.

He says there are just too many constraints

on the hardware that we have.

But Snap thinks it's important to iterate in public.

Every time it releases another generation of Spectacles,

it's able to learn from its community, get feedback,

and then incorporate that into the next edition.

With Spectacles 3, for the first time Snap is integrating

its computing into the real world.

It's opening up that tool for developers,

and it's going to learn a bunch.

I don't think it's going to sell a lot Spectacles 3,

but I do think that what it learns

is gonna make Spectacles 4 a much more interesting product.

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