The Snapchat application in the Apple App Store.
Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Kia Kokalitcheva
September 24, 2016

Meet Snap, Inc., a Venice, Calif.-based startup that’s behind the popular ephemeral messaging app Snapchat.

Snap, Inc. is Snapchat’s new corporate name because the company now has a second product: A pair of sunglasses equipped with a video camera, marking its entry into the hardware business. The glasses record 10-second clips that are synced to the user’s smartphone so they can be shared via Snapchat, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Earlier on Friday, news site Business Insider published a video clip showcasing the sunglasses, which also displayed the company’s new name at the end.

The sunglasses, called Spectacles, will be available this fall for $129.99, in black, teal, and coral, according to the Journal. Its camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens and records video in a circular frame instead of the typical rectangle to make it more akin to the human wearer’s vantage point. This is no surprise considering that many Snapchat users document their day-to-day lives using the app’s Stories feature, a temporary collection of photos and videos.

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The new glasses are reminiscent of Google Glass, the search giant’s short-lived connected eyewear product that was discontinued in early 2015 after it failed to catch on widely. Its failure was largely attributed to common concerns over privacy if a wearer filmed people without their consent.

Snapchat began in 2011 as an app for sharing photos and short videos that disappear after the recipient has viewed them, an answer to growing teenage anxiety about the permanence of online social networks potentially haunting them later in life. Since then, it has added a media hub to its app where users can read short news articles from publishers like People, Vice, and CNN. It also features Stories and Memories, an album for saving certain photos and videos users wants to keep.

Snapchat’s ambition of becoming more than a startup with a photo-sharing app has been clear for quite some time. It’s been fostering relationships with major publishers and expanding its advertising products in a clear bid to be a media company.

But there appears to be more. According to the Journal‘s interview with Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s co-founder and CEO, he thinks of Snapchat as a camera company. He draws comparisons to the histories of Kodak and Polaroid, whose cameras helped shape the trajectory photography took from people posing for photos in a studio, to carrying camera nearly everywhere.

Rumors that Snapchat was working on a wearable device began to emerge over the past year or so as the company quietly hired experts in hardware, eyewear, augmented reality, and other related areas. In June, Business Insider also reported that the sunglasses Spiegel was photographed wearing while on vacation a year prior were an early prototype of Spectacles.

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