Snapchat is stuck in the uncanny valley of AR glasses

Timing”, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said cryptically when asked what the greatest threat was for Snap Inc. “I think the big risks are always the really big product ideas that we’re investing in that are just hard to get right” he told the Goldman Sachs conference two weeks ago.

The statements got lost amongst flashier quotes. He defended the Snapchat redesign saying “Even the complaints we’re seeing reinforce the philosophy”, and described Snap’s office atmosphere as “just below the boil…. Like when you heat water, and it’s really fucking hot, but it’s just below the boil.”

Yet it’s his thoughts on ‘timing’ that give us the deepest insight into Snapchat’s toughest problem: overcoming reality.

“I think if we look at the future, there’s a lot of different components to what we’re trying to accomplish and timing is an important one of those — especially in the technology business, both in terms of consumers’ willingness to try new products, but also in terms of technological development and what that can power in a set amount of time. As I’m looking at the next decade, big products that we’re trying to develop, I think timing is a funny thing. That’s probably what I’ll have my eye on as we just continue to try to develop products, and we’re willing to wait to get ’em right but that’s probably the risk.”

For Snap, no idea is bigger than building augmented reality glasses that pack world-morphing features into a stylish form factor. I believe this is what Spiegel was hinting at. He knows Snap is mired in an uncanny valley between the lackluster truth of today’s augmented reality hardware, and the desirable AR gadgets that are years beyond our current engineering prowess.

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