When I reviewed the first- and second-generation Snap Spectacles, augmented reality glasses were still in their infancy: Google Glass had failed and HoloLens was shifting more towards enterprise. Today’s AR landscape looks (and sounds) more diverse thanks to wearables like Focals by North, Amazon’s Echo Frames and Bose Frames. Apple is even rumored to be working on AR glasses. It’s not so weird to wear a computer on your face anymore.

I’m running around Venice Beach wearing Spectacles 3, Snap’s latest sunglasses that capture photos and videos with depth information. Once I import the footage into Snapchat, I’ll overlay a 3D flying bird over the scene so it looks like I’m chasing it down the street. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s also kinda fun — a sentiment I feel sums up Spectacles 3 perfectly.

The flying bird in action.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Like regular Snapchat videos you capture on your phone, you can add similar 3D elements over your Spectacles 3 clips, except they respond better to what’s actually in the frame thanks to a depth map. These 3D elements and filters can also affect the look of your video, such as putting floating blobs in the scene or making it rain confetti.

Snap Spectacles 3 aren’t able to display AR content over your field of vision like some of the other glasses I mentioned earlier. But it’s important to talk about them in this context because Snap’s headed to the same place, except instead of text messages in front of your face, it might be rainbows, hearts or other 3D objects overlaid on your world.

If you’re a big Snapchatter, creator or artist who loves the idea of AR effects, Spectacles 3 may be worth it. But for pretty much everyone else, there’s no reason to own a pair until they can do more.

Two cameras, but twice the price of the original

Let’s get the biggest elephant in the room out of the way first: Spectacles 3 are expensive. At $380 (£330) they’re not going to be within the reach of most Snapchatters. Snap knows this, which is why they’re in limited release. (The company says it sold over 200,000 of the first-generation Spectacles and version 3 will only be a fraction of this number.) You can grab Spectacles 3 through the Spectacles website and select retailers in the US like Neiman Marcus.

Even though you might not use Snapchat, the app is crazy popular: In July 2019 Snap quoted 13 million new users jumping on board; by October, a further 7 million signed up for a total of 210 million active users, according to Snap. That’s a lot of eyeballs that could potentially see Spectacles 3 content.

A retro-future design that passes for regular sunglasses

Like many regular sunglasses, you can adjust the nose pads and the arms to fit your face better. Spectacles 3 have a metal frame and they come in either a black or gold finish. The frames themselves are quite top-heavy and take some getting used to the weight, especially if you’re not accustomed to glasses with adjustable nose pads.

The design might also be polarizing — the aesthetic is what I’d call future art deco. As sunglasses, they work just fine. I appreciate the lenses are a neutral gray tint and they don’t have the reflective finish from the first generation that looked a little comical. You can actually wear these as regular sunglasses without getting funny looks.


They look like normal sunglasses.

Angela Lang/CNET

They come with a leather case that also charges them and a Google Cardboard-style viewer so you can review snaps in VR using your phone. You don’t have to use this headset to watch your snaps back (most of the time I just reviewed on my phone because it was a lot easier).

A still image taken on Spectacles 3 that shows the 3D effect.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Like previous Spectacles, you press either of the buttons on the temples to take 10-second snaps of video with sound, or press and hold for a photo. Those photos let you virtually move the camera from side to side to produce a kind of stereoscopic effect without needing to view in the headset. You can take longer stretches of video, up to 60 seconds at a time, by pressing the button in quick succession. There’s an LED light that spins to let others know you’re recording and a small light on the inside does the same for you. That inside light can also flash different colors if you get a snap from a friend.

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