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Snap is doubling down on its hardware business, launching a new version of its Spectacles camera-glasses today with a better camera, the ability to take still images and water resistance.

The new model comes as Snapchat attempts to recover from the disappointing long-term fate of the first generation, which gathered attention – and long queues – when they were launched in extremely limited quantities in November 2016, but failed to sell in large numbers when they were eventually released on general sale.

Over the lifetime of the product, Snap sold just 220,000 units, the company says, eventually writing off unsold inventory worth almost $40m.

This time round, the new Spectacles will be available from Snap’s website, at a price of £149.99, and are launching simultaneously in the UK, US, Canada and France, and more widely across Europe the following week.

Like the first model, the Spectacles can take video in short 10-second increments, recording in a circular format which can be viewed in the Snapchat app or exported for other uses. This time, they can also take still photos – with a 1642 pixel resolution, 50% higher than the videos shot by the previous version – and they can shoot underwater. Stereo mics, combined with post-processing to reduce noise, also let the glasses capture clearer, higher quality sound.

Snap’s decision to recommit to Spectacles has come as a surprise, as many competitors are shifting away from smart glasses in general. Intel launched its own product, a pair of specs that use lasers to shine information directly into wearers’ eyes, in February this year, but had cancelled the project by April, noting that new technologies “sometimes require tough choices when market dynamics don’t support further investment”.

Similarly, the Google Glass smart spectacles, launched in 2013, famously earned its wearers the sobriquet “Glasshole”, and the company eventually stopped producing the device in 2015.

Snap says the focus on hardware is a critical part of its future. Co-founder Evan Spiegel describes Snap as a “camera company” first and foremost, and Snap argues that that doesn’t just mean tools for taking photos and videos, but also features that enable “augmented reality” technology, and new ways to interact with digital elements in the physical world.

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