And they’re just one of the new AR announcements made at the virtual Partner Summit this week.
This week, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel showcased the company’s newest generation of Spectacles, which are now true AR glasses.
Snap’s previous Spectacles used two cameras to detect depth, and then processed the data afterwards to add more advanced effects called “lenses.” With the newest generation of Spectacles, this processing happens in real time.
There’s a catch—for a good reason
Though many experts cite Snap as a prime example of consumer AR, they aren’t making these glasses available to consumers. Instead, the company is offering them to AR content creators.
Why? This is likely due a number of factors. For one, the limitations on the hardware are still significant: Battery life is a paltry 30 minutes, and the FoV is 26.3° diagonally. Compare that to HoloLens 2’s 52° diagonal FoV.
The Verge, which interviewed Snap’s CEO soon after the announcement, explains another very good reason:
The idea is to encourage a small portion of the 200,000 people who already make AR effects in Snapchat to experiment with creating experiences for the new Spectacles, according to Spiegel. Like the bright yellow vending machines Snap used to sell the first version of Spectacles several years ago, the approach could end up being a clever way to build buzz for the glasses ahead of their wide release.
In other words, it’s a plan to bypass the biggest remaining limitation of AR, the difficulty of creating content.
The glasses, which weigh only 134 grams (compared to HoloLens 2’s 566 grams), include two dual-waveguide displays. Their sensor payload includes 2 RGB cameras, 4 built-in microphones, 2 stereo speakers, and touchpad controls. The engine tracks pose in 6 degrees of freedom, and includes tracking for hands, markers, and surfaces. They feature low latency, at 15 milliseconds, and an uncommonly bright display at 2000 Nits.
What other AR tech did Snap preview at the summit?
The also showcased a number of new AR developments.
- An update to Snapchat’s clothing try-on feature that supports watches and glasses, and makes it easier for companies to add AR versions of their products
- A new Snapchat feature called Connected Lenses, which enables multi-person AR experiences (much like Niantic’s games)
- An AR “lab” called Ghost, with $3.5 million going to the development of AR effects
…and an acquisiton
As if that weren’t enough to signal that Snap is serious about taking on Apple and Facebook in the race to build viable consumer AR, they have also agreed to acquire their AR display makers. The Verge reports that the company is buying WaveOptics for more than $500 million. This defensive move ensures that the company has access to waveguide technology, a recent area of development for Google, Facebook, and Apple.