After an initial launch and years of being a platform aimed at teens or others not wanting to see images stick around on the Internet, Snapchat seems to be growing into a much more mature and extensive platform. Snapchat recently caught up to Facebook in terms of videos viewed on their platform and they have been making moves to entice companies to setup shop on Snapchat. Now signs are starting to surface indicating Snapchat may be working on their first hardware product and it could take the form of some Google Glass-ish wearable technology.
Snapchat is not commenting on what may be up inside the company, specifically their Snapchat Research unit that was launched in February 2015 or the more mysterious Snap Lab. That latter unit only shows up in a couple references on Snapchat’s job board and in a LinkedIn profile for Kelly Nyland, Snapchat’s head of marketing.
Back in 2014, Snapchat purchased Vergence Labs, a company that was making eyewear that included video cameras to produce true point-of-view videos. The ability to capture what a user is seeing was one of the strengths of Google Glass despite concerns about what might be done with the resulting photos or images. Of twelve former Vergence employees with profiles on LinkedIn, five of them are still working at Snapchat.
Along with those employees, Snapchat has hired Mark Dixon who was a recruiter on the HoloLens project. Dixon even indicates in his LinkedIn profile that he is working “for a stealth group” within Snapchat. Snapchat has also retained Eitan Pilipski from Qualcomm’s Vuforia team. Vuforia is a software platform for augmented reality and in particular, computer vision techniques. Those could be useful if a screen is going to be used to overlay data on a feed from a camera lens or on a lens that a person is looking through.
In addition to the technical expertise Snapchat has hired or is advertising for, they also have an eyewear designer in house in Lauryn Morris. Morris’ background includes frames designed for Michael Kors, Innovega, and Zac Posen. Possibly more intriguing, Morris came on board in November 2014, shortly after the Vergence Labs acquisition.
Snapchat seems to have plenty of expertise on board on if they wanted to make a device for capturing images or videos using a device worn on the face. This would also be consistent with their history of giving people a way to share what they are seeing.