Snap Inc, the maker of Snapchat, is doubling down on its camera-enabled sunglasses, making them available across Europe.
The hardware, called Spectacles, will be available online and also in location-hopping vending machines, including at the London Eye.
But this isn’t (just) a publicity stunt: technology companies are locked in a fierce battle to own your camera.
Facebook has said it wants an augmented-reality future based on people’s cameras.
Google recently unveiled Lens, a technology that turns your camera into a search engine, giving you information about anything you point it at – from buildings and flowers to people.
Pinterest’s chief executive has said that “a lot of the future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords”.
And Apple is said to be developing its own smart glasses.
Snap led the charge here. In its initial public offering filing in February, it said: “Snap Inc is a camera company.”
It had already launched Spectacles in September 2016.
Since then, though, the company has had a tough time.
Facebook has been busy copying Snapchat’s features into its own apps, including Instagram and Messenger as well as the main Facebook app.
Snap’s first earnings report in May was disappointing, posting a $2.2 billion loss for the first quarter; its shares are still trading at less than their IPO price.
In that context, it could have pulled back from Spectacles.
Evan Spiegel, the company’s chief executive, has described it as an “experiment”; the company loses money on each pare it sells, according to its IPO filing.
So rolling Spectacles out across Europe is certainly interesting.
There are a couple of things at play.
First, Spectacles encourage you to use Snapchat a lot more.
I’ve only played with them for a day but (encouraged by the London sun) I’ve taken way more snaps than usual.
They’re actually quite fun and the camera quality is decent.
It’s also a lot easier to just hit a button on the side of your glasses to record a video, rather than get your phone out, decide which photo-sharing app you want to use and take a pic.
And that’s an important point: Spectacles encourage you to use Snapchat and nothing else.
They are a way of locking in users.
Second, they play to the strengths of Snapchat, which has always been a fun, conversational medium – not one for polished photography.
As Spiegel has said: “Pictures are being used for talking.
“So when you see your children taking a zillion photos of things that you would never take a picture of, it’s because they’re using photographs to talk.”
That said, Spectacles cost £129.99.
They aren’t aimed at teens – anyway, Snap already has that market cornered.
Spectacles are about broadening its appeal to an older, more affluent demographic.
And that price will come down over time.
But remember, Spectacles are mainly an experiment.
After these valiant disaster that was Google Glas, augmented reality is making a slow comeback.
Spectacles are lower tech than Google Glass, but people might actually wear them.
After that, Snap can start adding more and more features – and gain a beachhead in the Great Camera War.