When a tech company moved into a house next to her Venice Beach boardwalk sunglasses stand three years ago, Maria Shim had no idea that it would eventually become her competition.
But on Thursday, nearly all the demand for sunglasses on the boardwalk was centered 25 feet away from her table.
Hundreds of people lined up for hours to buy a pair of Snapchat Spectacles — available to the public for the first time and dispensed out of a bright yellow vending machine.
The quirky debut for the $130 video camera sunglasses drew worldwide attention. Snapchat developer Snap Inc. has amassed 150 million daily users of its image-sharing, chatting and news app. Spectacles are the Venice company’s first try at high-tech hardware.
Snap is expected to introduce more devices in the years to come as part of a broad strategy to change how people communicate. If the early vision for Spectacles is eventually realized, it will decrease people’s need to pull out their smartphones.
For now, tapping a button near the left hinge of the Spectacles activates a camera in the corner of the left lens. It takes circular-cropped videos of up to 30 seconds each. The clips can be transferred wirelessly to the Snapchat smartphone app, where they can shared with friends.
The company and analysts describe the coral, teal and black pairs that went on sale Thursday as toys. Head-worn devices, including Google Glass, have had limited consumer appeal, and the initial run of Spectacles may be a gimmick. But sunglasses are an untested format and Snapchat’s millennial users make a good starting ground, Gartner technology analyst Brian Blau said.
He questioned the sales strategy, though. Pop-up vending machines, each in the same location for only 24 hours in the months to come, are unlikely to attract Snapchat’s core audience of teenagers and college students.
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