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Snap Inc. Spectacles and Snapchat show campuses in new light

Hands-free video inspires schools to experiment with social media app’s wearable tech
University Business, July 2017

Whether or not you’re one of the 166 million daily Snapchat users, it’s impossible to ignore the deep impact of the mobile app on how teens and young adults communicate. Snapchat is now the top social media site in high schools across the country, according to the 2017 E-Expectations Survey.

Snap Inc.’s Spectacles are at the center of a new strategy focused on future augmented-reality wearables. But what are Spectacles? They are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses equipped with a camera that can record up to 30 seconds of video, capturing experiences from a first-person point of view.

The short videos shot with Spectacles are automatically synced in SD or HD directly to the Moments tab of a paired Snapchat account. It’s possible to record several of these short videos, edit and share a selection in a Snapchat Story. They can also be saved on your device for use outside of Snapchat.

Cool, but not revolutionary

Snap’s first wearable device has been designed, marketed and priced (at $129) more like a cool toy than a technological innovation. Spectacles were launched last fall as part of an elaborate marketing campaign based on the formula of scarcity and unpredictability.

You could initially buy them only through “Snapbots,” large, yellow vending machines placed in a few locations.

Then, in February, the company made them available via its website. Snap hasn’t shared sales numbers, but, using public earning reports data, TechCrunch estimated in May 2017 that fewer than 100,000 pairs had been sold.

Yet, the 2017 commencement season has seen several “Spectacles videos” shot by graduating students. At Duke University, George Washington University and elsewhere, these videos have been hits on institutional Snapchat accounts.

The first-person footage has been repurposed and integrated in well-produced videos shared on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Instagram.

“Having a senior wear them during commencement ceremonies gives viewers a different perspective into graduation,” says Jason Boucher, the University of New Hampshire’s social media manager.

Testing, testing

Right now, Spectacles are still in the playful, experimental phase in higher ed. Sandra Ordonez, social media administrator at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, was among the first higher ed pros to snatch a pair and to chronicle her experience last December.

The hands-free nature and “first-person perspective” of Spectacles is what made them so compelling. “We can capture moments of students testing out a motor sports vehicle or an excavator robot,” says Ordonez.

For Jackie Vetrano, social media coordinator at Skidmore College, videos shot by a student while doing research, working in the dining hall, walking around campus or even playing a sport are very engaging for the viewer.

That’s also the reason several college sports teams have been experimenting with Spectacles as well. “We showed one of our basketball games from a variety of perspectives including a player, band member, cameraman, team manager and marketing member,” says Brian Wagner, social media coordinator for University of Michigan athletics.

New perspective

Most of the early adopters agree that the change in perspective—not the device itself—is the game-changer. Spectacles offer an easy and affordable way to tell engaging visual stories.

They could also act as training wheels to get used to what’s coming next with augmented reality wearables, which is something that the too expensive, too powerful, too complex Google Glass failed to achieve.

So, if your school has a Snapchat account and you can spare $130, it’s a good time to experiment and explore with Spectacles—especially if you have already launched a social media student ambassadors program.


Karine Joly is the web editor behind www.collegewebeditor.com, a blog about higher ed web marketing, public relations, and technologies.

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