In the coming weeks, Snapchat plans to begin selling sunglasses that have a small camera capable of recording 10-second video clips.
The high-tech shades will cost $130 and mark the app maker's first crack at electronics, the Wall Street Journal Magazine reported late Friday. Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel told the publication that Spectacles are a toy, meant to be worn for fun at events like family barbecues or while on a hike.
The camera contains a 115-degree-angle lens, recording a wider field of view than typical for smartphones. The videos that result are full-screen circular instead of rectangular, making them more like human vision, the magazine reported.
"What if you could go back and see that memory the way you experienced it?" Snapchat said in a blog post Saturday. "That's why we built Spectacles."
Users tap a button near the hinge to record clips, which download to the Snapchat app via Wi-Fi on Android devices and Bluetooth on Apple gadgets. A light goes off on the frame during recording, alerting people to the situation. The battery lasts about a day.
Spiegel said the rollout of Spectacles would be slow and limited as the company figures out how hey fit into people's lives. More than 150 million people worldwide use Snapchat.
The Venice company's foray into hardware had been the subject of rumors for month. Tech analysts speculated that the company would release glasses with a display, providing a digital overlay on people's normal view of the world. That may still be in the works, though some wearable technology veterans doubt that Snapchat has grander ambitions than a wearable camera.
"I think the buck stops there," Kayvan Mirza, chief executive of smart glasses maker Optinvent, said this week.
But even Spectacles is a bold move, coming only a few years after Google pulled back from Glass because consumers voiced privacy concerns about the eyewear's camera.
Many of the societal questions Glass raised remain unanswered. The teenagers and young adults who make up most of Snapchat's users may skip past those concerns quickly for a product tied to a brand they cherish. Patrick Worfolk, senior vice president and chief technology officer at touchscreen technology supplier Synaptics, speculated this week that a Snapchat wearable would be for the "younger generation."
"It's a mix of bringing in value and entertainment — the wearable would have to create in-the-moment images that otherwise wouldn't be available or would making taking out a smartphone obtrusive," he said. "And in general, the teens are likely to be less worried about privacy. It's the time of your life you're more focused on fun and social interactions."
Snapchat, an advertising-supported app for sharing photos and 10-second videos, will gain a new revenue stream with the sunglasses. Any money is welcome as the company prepares for an expected initial public offering of stock next year. It's currently Los Angeles' most valuable start-up, with investors pegging it as $16-billion company.
As part of the hardware rollout, Snapchat Inc. is changing its corporate title to Snap Inc. to show that the company makes more than its flagship app. In a blog post, Spiegel hinted that other products would be coming, with the company's new website describing a mission of "reinventing the camera." He also offered another reason for the name change, one that seemed to tease the IPO.
"When you search for our products it will be easier to find relevant product information rather than boring company information or financial analysis," he wrote. "You can search Snapchat or Spectacles for the fun stuff and leave Snap Inc. for the Wall Street crowd."
1:35 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional details from Snapchat.