Snapchat's new glasses offer a glimpse of AR going beyond phones
I finally tried Snap's AR glasses in my backyard and tested some of its augmented reality lenses in bright outdoor light. The about an hour I spent with them was like a quick sprint in the possible future, how developers will play AR outside of the current mobile-driven experience. Before the battery ran out, I was able to try some of the experiences provided by the developers and Snapchat.
There are many questions on the road to the future AR glasses that we will always wear: What will you use them for? Will any pair of smart glasses be more useful than your phone? For companies like Snapchat's parent company Snap, the way is to continue to develop mobile AR before physical glasses. This is still Snap's method, even though AR glasses are already in the hands of developers. Snap is working on more ways to scan the real world and use AR to cover it in the Snapchat app's similar application Licenses and transfer some of these tools to developers to develop AR that is not ready for consumers Glasses.
This may be as good as any hint about the development of augmented reality in 2022. As Qualcomm and other companies are racing to develop AR glasses, your phone is still the best place for them to connect.
As the concept of Metaverse becomes ubiquitous, Snap's answer to it is to layer an increasingly complex series of AR tools and effects into the company's mobile phone-based social network. But Snap's method also has an interesting problem: creating unique facial filters and AR effects for use in other applications. In a sense, your avatar—or your cat face—can be spread across apps.
Brielle Garcia's AR menu lens, a way to browse virtual menu items in AR. Snapchat has been working hard to add more ways for developers to overlay more virtual things in the real world.
Snapchat continues to add more advanced AR features to its mobile-based applications. The lens created by the developer can “mesh” the world (3D scan your environment, including objects and obstacles, just like Apple’s lidar-equipped iPhones and iPads can do), but use ordinary mobile phone cameras. The lens can also cover the real world with custom-designed augmented reality. The Landmarks feature was previously only available in selected real-world locations, but Snap allows anyone to scan and enhance their local effects. It remains to be seen how the company will appropriately create local AR effects.
But what does this mean for smart glasses? Snap's AR glasses announced earlier this year are still only available to developers. The company is slowly making more of this technology available to developers, but there is no timetable for when it can be purchased. There is a good reason for this: Snap's AR glasses have a very short battery life, are not suitable for ordinary glasses (I have to wear contact lenses)，and have a very narrow field of view. But for now, they can serve as a building block for developers to figure out how their mobile AR applications will start working on glasses.
I can understand why they are useful for developers to test. The biggest advantage of Snap glasses is that they are bright enough to be used outdoors, which is different from some other AR headsets. Other things that surprised me. Doing things like stringing virtual lights between the tree and my porch, or escaping from the zombies chasing me in the yard, all hint at what might happen when outdoor wearable glasses become mainstream.
The glasses are also designed as accessories for mobile phones, but they can work independently when connected to Wi-Fi. Just like Meta's Ray-Ban glasses, they are paired directly with an app. The lenses that work in Snapchat can also be loaded onto the glasses. The goal is to make mobile AR work so well that, in a sense, turning to glasses is more like a fit and form choice.
Snap's AR focus on mobile phones and headsets is becoming more real and collaborative. Connected Lenses, which allows multiple people to share the same experience, will soon appear in developer-only glasses. But Snapchat still has no way to make mobile phones and these glasses interact in the same experience. This may come at some point, but since Snap's AR glasses are still purely developer-specific hardware, this may not matter now. Most of Snap's most exciting AR works are still compatible with mobile phones.
This also highlights the state of AR at the end of 2021: if you want to try it, use your phone. For Snapchat and almost everyone else, the glasses part is still in progress.