Snap Inc. — formerly known as Snapchat — is now selling camera-embedded sunglasses, hoping its wearable technology can succeed where Google Glass failed.
The Spectacles sunglasses allow people to record 10-second video clips, with the point-of-view videos uploaded wirelessly to the Snapchat app on the person’s phone. It’s the first move into the physical world for Snap, which was renamed in September when it announced plans for the new sunglasses.
You won’t find the Spectacles, priced at $130, behind store counters — at least, not yet. The company is selling them exclusively through bright yellow vending machines, the first of which appeared on Venice Beach in California on Thursday.
The company has not announced where other vending machines will be located, saying only that an online map would reveal future locations, where they are to remain for only about a day. The locations will be shared just 24 hours in advance.
According to postings on Twitter, a line of more than 100 people quickly formed in front of the wacky vending machine, referred to as a “Snapbot.”
“This looks like something dropped from a cartoon UFO, with balloons attached to slowly float down,” Twitter user Ajay Mehta wrote.
The glasses quickly sold out, Twitter users reported. They reappeared on sites such as eBay for $1,000.
Snap introduced the camera-embedded sunglasses with an online video of millennial women goofing off in a Los Angeles skate park, recording fun moments of their sun-kissed afternoon.
If the Spectacles unveiling was pure L.A. cool, it contrasted starkly with the Google Glass debut four years ago, which was pure Silicon Valley geek.
Where Glass wanted to be important, Spectacle claims it just wants to have fun. That gulf tells you a lot about why Snap’s founder, Evan Spiegel, has kept his company in Venice Beach, near the ocean and studio lots that have shaped popular culture for decades.
The brand’s laid-back Southern California approach was first apparent in its messaging and media app Snapchat, where the messages quickly disappear.
The videos are short and sweet and have become a hit with young people who are wary of Facebook and Instagram with their permanent records of social media.
Just as Snap outwardly eschews the more earnest Silicon Valley ethos — technology should change the world — it has also sidestepped the biggest mistakes made by Google Glass.
Glass, which was shut down as a consumer product last year, didn’t show people when it was recording. Some techies didn’t care, but many found it a violation of privacy.
Glass was priced at $1,500, making it a vanity gadget for elites. At $130, a pair of Spectacles is a cool toy, and an indicator light shows when users are recording.