Last week Toshiba’s move to sign a distribution deal with Vuzix has particularly interesting timing; given the launch of Snap Inc.’s IPO.
As mainstream businesses are beefing up to capitalize on the booming augmented reality (AR) market, could this be part of Toshiba’s long-term AR monetization strategy?
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Vuzix expects to sell thousands of pairs of smart glasses in its distribution deal with Toshiba. The deal based on Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses will provide Toshiba with smart glass technology, this comes after the company canceled its own line of smart glasses.
Vuzix’s glasses delivers a “hands-free” digital world; its built-in HD camera records, stores, and plays back still pictures and video, along with expandable memory and wireless connectivity capabilities.
The glasses also have an integrated head tracking and GPS system that provide apps with your location the direction and angle of your current view.
If we look back on 2016, it was the year augmented reality became an actual reality. Pokemon Go took over the world last summer, creating a frenzy of players running around finding the superimposed 3D creatures on their smartphones.
That same year Snapchat came out with its Spectacles – Willy-Wonka-esque plastic sunglasses with a built-in camera.
Much like Vuzix smart glasses, Snapchat’s spectacles are also considered augmented reality glasses. If Snap’s spectacles get Vuzix’s technology behind them, the world of AR is about to get a lot more interesting.
Snapchat has a history of disrupting the marketing like Facebook did to MySpace. Snapchat captured Gen Z’s attention by offering an app where its users could capture snapshots and short videos of their life, then disappearing leaving no trace behind. It quickly gained further market share exploding to the reportedly 301 million monthly active users it has today.
After a failed attempt from Facebook to clone and acquire Snapchat, Instagram then stepped in to gain market share with its release of Instagram stories. With increasing competition threats from Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat has headed for disruption once again, this time by diversifying its business model from being solely a social media outlet.
Snap Inc. designed in its S-1 filing, that it’s a camera company, indicating that its future is beyond just the app and will double down on its involvement with its Spectacles product and the wearable technology industry.
So is Snapchat a social platform or camera company? The answer is, it’s both – and that’s where is the disruption will occur.
Snapchat filters feature serves as one of the first mainstream applications we have seen of AR. Additionally, Snap, Inc. is one of the most prominent success stories in AR advertising, and its digital asset overlays are one of its biggest revenue streams right now.
As Snapchat heads into an initial public offering with an estimated value of close to $25 billion, the company has amassed AR ad patents around image recognition and contextual ad placement and has built an automated ad platform to generate more consistent marketing revenue as it moves forward.
Could Toshiba be gearing up to roll out next generation smart glasses for Snapchat? No one can say for sure, but between Toshiba’s distribution channels and Vuzix’s proven technology, it would seem like a lucrative step in the right direction.
Regardless, Toshiba’s new AR partnership with Vuzix proves that this industry commands the attention of even the world’s largest companies.