Snapchat has pulled off a remarkable turnaround from fringe sexting app to become the only way tweens communicate. But even though the company has defied expectations once, I still fully expect Snapchat-branded AR glasses to crash and burn.
A report from the Financial Times claims that Snapchat is hiring hardware engineers, specifically people familiar with Bluetooth. That adds fuel to an already-existing rumor, first reported by CNET, that Snapchat is planning on building a set of augmented reality glasses. But the real question is: why?
There exists an already-cautionary tale about a software company that tried to make AR glasses happen. But at least Google Glass made some kind of sense: Google’s founding principle is to help people understand, organize and interact with the world around them. Snapchat’s founding principle is, uh, selfies and funny filters? It doesn’t transfer quite as well to a set of AR glasses as Google’s services did to Google Glass.
In theory, Snapchat AR glasses would use Snapchat’s impressive array of augmented reality filters like vomiting rainbows and face-swaps, and apply those more generally to the world around. There’s no denying that Snapchat is good at augmented reality, but it’s not really useful augmented reality. Sure, it’s good at detecting and modifying faces, but I’m not really sure why that’s a useful skill to have attached to your face.
Making hardware is going through a trend phase, mostly since Apple is raking in the cash on iPhones, and the days of app startups are over. Snapchat making AR glasses feels like an exploration into hardware because it can, not because it should. It’s also a good potential money-maker for the company, which is sorely needed. The company brought in $59 million in revenue last year, but is targeting $1 billion by 2017. For the company’s sake, let’s hope this isn’t the Facebook Phone 2.0.