This post is an excerpt from Charlie Fink’s Book, Convergence, How the World Will Be Painted with Data. AR Insider Editor Mike Boland contributed a chapter to the book which we’ll publish here in three parts. You can see more or purchase the book here. We have book discounts available for ARtillery PRO subscribers. 

Sidebar: Snap Specs Are Not AR

By Mike Boland

Snap Spectacles have lived up to their name as a spectacle for the tech press. They’ve evoked a schizophrenic chorus of anticipation, adoration, disappointment, and even a $40 million write-down for unsold inventory. It turns out it ain’t easy to get people to put things on their faces.

But there’s also a looming misperception we must correct: Snap Spectacles are not AR glasses.

More like “camera glasses,” their M.O. is to record shareable videos. AR glasses will similarly have cameras to sense the geometry around them. But world-immersive graphics—or even flat HUD overlays—aren’t in Specs’ specifications just yet.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an AR-endgame. The second version of the Specs is more stylish. Might this be a deliberate play to condition users to having sensors on their faces? If Snap has plans for AR glasses as rumored, softening cultural sensitivities to face-worn cameras is a smart move, and helps the industry in general.

“That’s the secret strategy or Trojan horse: How do you get enough sensors in people’s hands at a cheap price, or on their face,” Ubiquity 6 CEO Anjney Midha said at September’s TC Disrupt. “That sets them up for very immersive AR or any kind of VR experiences a year or two years from now.”

As explored in this chapter, Apple is doing something similar. The wildly successful AirPods are conditioning users for an all-day wearable before Apple rolls out “audio AR,” then eventually AR glasses that blend graphical and audible overlays.

But is it possible we’re giving Snap too much credit for the deliberate acclimation play? It could simply be reaching to see what sticks amidst a falling market cap, and face-saving motivation to live up to its “camera-company” self-proclamation.

Whether or not it’s deliberate, we’re with Midha. Spectacles will be the gateway drug for AR glasses if the latest batch can win over consumers. Snap is already accustomed to that role: basic selfie filters have been mobile AR’s gateway drug for a few years, warming us up for an immersive future.

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Disclosure: AR Insider has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. AR Insider Editor Mike Boland contributed a chapter to the book excerpted in this post, but receives no money for sales of the book nor has any direct financial incentive to promote it. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.