Snap just laid off 20% of its staff. How affected is its AR Spectacles project?
Spectacles was revealed over a year ago. It’s a standalone device with two cameras to perform spatial tracking of the world as well as hand tracking and video capture. It reaches an impressive 2000 nits of brightness, making it one of the only AR devices usable outdoors. However, the field of view is a tiny 26.3 degrees diagonal and the battery lasts just 30 minutes.
Spectacles is still only available to select developers – it isn’t yet a product consumers can buy.
Yesterday Snap CEO Evan Spiegel announced the company is “refocusing”, laying off 20% of its staff and cancelling multiple products including its handheld drone. The move is a response to a dramatic 85% crash of Snap’s share price over the past year, driven by the fall in advertising demand across the economy and Apple’s iOS privacy changes reducing the effectiveness of targeting.
So will this “refocusing” affect Spectacles? In its monthly financial update Snap told investors “we’re narrowing our investment scope in Spectacles to focus on highly differentiated long-term research and development efforts”. A Snap representative directed us to this statement, but also told us Snap is “fully committed to Spectacles”.
But multiple former Snap AR staff have confirmed being laid off on social media including an AR Platform Design Lead, a Senior AR Developer Community Specialist, and a R&D program manager. The company’s director of AR Platform Partnerships & Ecosystem tweeted out a call for other companies in the industry to hire those laid off, “especially in AR or VR”.
It’s unclear what exactly the company means by “highly differentiated long-term research and development efforts”. Snap’s R&D includes brain reading following its acquisition of NextMind earlier this year, and AR waveguides & projectors following its acquisition of WaveOptics last year.
Meta, which has also been affected by weakening advertising demand and iOS privacy changes, reportedly canceled its own plans to launch consumer AR glasses in 2024, pushing the target back to 2026. Reports have claimed Apple has also pushed plans for AR glasses to the second half of the decade. With its core business at risk, Snap may be following suit – potentially cancelling shorter term ventures like commercializing the current iteration of Spectacles. UploadVR reached out to Snap asking about that prospect, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.