VISION PLAN | Spiegel, CEO of the newly christened Snap Inc., wearing Spectacles. “We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” he says of the device, which records up to 10 seconds of video at the tap of a button. PHOTO: KARL LAGERFELD FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE
IN AN UNMARKED BUILDING on a quiet side street just off the beach in Venice, California, 26-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel stands in a small conference room. He’s draped a towel over a mysterious object sitting on a table. He is eager to the point of jitters.
“You wanna see it?” he asks, grinning widely. There’s drama in this reveal: I’m about to join an exceedingly small circle of people whom Spiegel has shown the object to. As he lifts the towel, he breaks into a delighted laugh. “Boom!”
What initially appears to be a normal pair of sunglasses turns out to be Spectacles, the first hardware product from Snap Inc., as the firm has been newly christened (Spiegel is refreshing the company name because its offerings now go beyond the Snapchat app). When you slip Spectacles on and tap a button near the hinge, it records up to 10 seconds of video from your first-person vantage. Each new tap records another clip.
Why use a pair of video sunglasses—available this fall, by the way, one-size-fits-all in black, teal or coral—instead of holding up your smartphone like everyone else? Because, Spiegel says, the images that result are fundamentally different. Spectacles’ camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens, wider than a typical smartphone’s and much closer to the eyes’ natural field of view. The video it records is circular, more like human vision. (Spiegel argues that rectangles are an unnecessary vestige of printing photos on sheets of paper.) As you record, your hands are free to pet dogs, hug babies or flail around at a concert. You can reach your arms out to people you’re filming, instead of holding your phone up, as Spiegel describes it, “like a wall in front of your face.”
He remembers testing a prototype in early 2015 while hiking with his fiancée, supermodel Miranda Kerr. “It was our first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes—it was unbelievable. It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”
WHEN YOU ASK PEOPLE in the tech industry about Spiegel, and how it is that by age 26 he’s built a company with more than 1,000 employees and offices on three continents, one thing they often cite is Spiegel’s aptitude for product design. It’s what he studied at Stanford, before dropping out just shy of graduation to focus on Snapchat. It’s what makes his app so addictive that it now reaches more than 150 million daily users—nearly 15 million more than Twitter. It’s what attracts star talent like Imran Khan, whom Spiegel lured from Credit Suisse in 2014. “The reason I joined here was Evan,” says Khan, now chief strategy officer of Snap Inc., “because it was evident that he was the best product visionary I’d met in my entire life. And with technology companies, if you don’t have good product, you die...
... Read the full article by Seth Stevenson at wsj.com