Snapchat is reportedly preparing virtual reality glasses
Rumors around a virtual reality accessory made by Snapchat are multiplying, as the company has just joined an industrial group responsible for defining the standards of Bluetooth devices.
Would Snapchat feel cramped in its app? The company is working on virtual reality glasses, says the Financial Times . This technology, popularized in particular by Pokemon GO on smartphone, consists in embedding virtual elements in the real world. With glasses or helmets, it could now be placed directly in front of the eyes. For social networks where we communicate mainly through the image, the turn towards these accessories is relevant.
Snapchat seems to have initiated it, as evidenced by its rapprochement with virtual reality experts as well as stolen photos of strange glasses on the nose of its CEO Evan Spiegel.
Snapchat has also joined the Bluethooth Special Interest Group consortium, which oversees the development of Bluetooth standards and licenses the technology to manufacturers such as Nokia, Ericsson or Toshiba. A turn that suggests that he is interested in the production of computer equipment.
A turning point towards virtual reality
Feline ears added on selfies, more or less flattering distortions of portraits… The “filters” feature launched by Snapchat displayed the ambition of the platform by bringing it closer to virtual reality: “We believe that Snapchat is evolving far beyond a simple social media platform and could well become the first augmented reality platform,” suggested analyst Robert Peck to the site Quartz.
While Facebook keeps replicating Snapchat’s features on its apps, the company is engaging in a “very aggressive” behind-the-scenes strategy to stay ahead, an investor reports to the Financial Times.
In 2014, Snapchat offered Vergence Labs, a start-up specializing in the creation of smart glasses. Scientists and engineers specialized in machine learning and computational vision have joined a full-fledged research team, created in 2015. More recently, Lauryn Morris, a eyewear designer past Zac Posen, has joined the long list of expert hires.
The fact that Snapchat is now joining a consortium of Bluetooth hardware manufacturers converges, according to rumors, towards its launch in the manufacture of computer hardware to experiment in the field of virtual reality.
The carrot that made the GAFA run
The little ghost has the means to compete with the tech giants. In 2015, Snapchat had already raised more than $ 1.1 billion in a round hosting the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Last year, Snapchat broke its previous record by raising $ 1.81 billion from major investment funds like Sequoia Capital or Fidelity.
With 150 million daily users and a strong growth in its adoption rate since its creation in 2011, Snapchat is now valued at more than $ 15 billion. Without being comparable to Facebook-valued at 50 billion dollars at the same age-, Evan Spiegel’s company therefore has the means to invest in research projects. And has already done so, joining the virtual reality race in which its competitors are already engaged.
Last March, Mark Zuckerberg indulged in the exercise of prophecy: “It could happen in 5, 10, maybe in 15 or even 20 years. Personally, I think it will happen in 10 years, ” explained the Facebook CEO to the Business Insider site, about virtual reality. The technology, developed for 30 years around the dream of enriching the real world through virtual elements in holograms, excites the billionaire to the point of having bought for 2 billion dollars the company that develops the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.
On the occasion of the Mobile World Congress last February, Mark Zuckerberg announced the creation of a team dedicated to “social virtual reality”. Credits: Facebook.
Microsoft has also positioned itself by distributing last March the first versions of Hololens, an augmented reality headset first dedicated to professional use and since oriented towards the video game market. “There are great things to do for customers and great business opportunities (…) It can be huge, ” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
For all these players, augmented reality could give birth to a new era of computing, after that of the PC and the smartphone. With the arrival of Snapchat in the game, the movement of change may well accelerate.