Skip to main content

Are Snapchat’s New “Spectacles” Going to Make Surveillance Cool, At Last?

Snapchat’s latest concept will remind you of Google Glass, but that’s the last thing they want. It’s a pair of sunglasses with a tiny camera embedded in the frames, and by tapping the top of the glasses, the wearer can record a 10-second video clip. They’re called “Spectacles,” they’re $130, and as the commercial above demonstrates, Snapchat really wants you to think this idea is cool and fun and safe.

Snapchat will have a lot of hurdles to overcome in this area. There are any number of reasons we could cite as to why Google Glass didn’t succeed as a product, but here’s the most obvious reason: the glasses struck many people as “creepy”, which led many bars and businesses to outright ban customers from wearing them inside … even though none of those business owners seemed to have any trouble with smartphone cameras. There’s just something about hidden-camera glasses that rubs people the wrong way.

All this in spite of the fact that it’s relatively difficult to take a photo or video with Google Glass! In its original iteration, the Google Glass required the wearer to say “OK Glass” out loud before capturing any video, which meant that it was actually more obvious when someone was about to use that feature than it would be on a typical smartphone–which can be used to take “creepshots” without any onlooker knowing, to this day, with ease.

Snapchat’s Spectacles don’t require the wearer to say anything out loud, so you can take 10-second videos without anyone knowing. Also, unlike Google Glass, the sunglasses look a little more like “normal” sunglasses, as opposed to an eye-catching piece of futuristic tech. So the wearer can blend in a bit better… which might not be a good thing, if Snapchat is worried about coming across as “creepy” and getting associated with predatory behavior.

Not all of the Snapchat Spectacles are the same color of eye-catching teal as displayed in this commercial–although in my neck of the woods, wearing a big pair of teal sunglasses would still blend in with the crowd, since I live near a lot of younger people who wear big, flashy shades. Anyway, the Spectacles also come in other colors as well, such as black and coral. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wore a pair of clear-and-tortoise-shell Spectacles in a photo-shoot for the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that more colors and styles must be in the pipeline.

In some ways, the Spectacles can blend in with other sunglasses, but in other ways, they do still seem obvious, since the camera placement isn’t exactly hidden and the glasses do have a very distinctive look and shape. Google Glass went the other direction by not trying to hide in a pair of “normal” glasses, and one could argue that was their downfall; Glass ended up getting seen as “creepy” in spite of their attempts not to hide the tech. I’ve already seen a lot of headlines declaring that Snapchat is successfully making these glasses look “cool” in comparison (and the commercial does look cute and fun, to be sure).

As a brand, Snapchat definitely has the “coolness” factor that Google lacked. But even that might not be enough to overcome the psychological hurdle of a person wearing a hidden camera on their face. Why is it more creepy for someone to wear a hidden camera inside a set of glasses, than it is for them to have an equally unnoticeable camera on their phone? It’s just as simple for a stranger to record a 10-second video of me on their phone than it would be for them to record it on these glasses. So, why do I have a gut reaction of negativity towards these glasses? I don’t know, but I imagine I’m not the only one, and that Snapchat will have an uphill climb when it comes to explaining to anyone why these Spectacles would make more sense to buy than, say, a GoPro or any other more obvious-looking wearable, portable camera.

(via The Sun, image via YouTube screencap)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Follow The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google+.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (