Snapchat’s new World Lenses can paint the world around you with 3D experiences. The new AR life filters lets you place rainbows and clouds above your picnic table or extra flowers on your lawn. For now the 3D filters work only with the rear camera. In a clue to how quickly augmented reality is developing, Snap is promising to update them daily.
Snapchat’s New World Lenses
Snap has been venturing in Augmented Reality for some time with its filters and more recently, Snap Spectacles. The sunglasses let you record short videos and share them via the app. The technology in the latest World Lenses is similar to the augmented reality used with Pokemon Go as it overlays digital images on the physical world.
Currently, there’s a nature filter that lets you throw seeds into the ground that pop up as flowers, a text filter that places colorful words like “OMG” and “love” into the frame, a shining rainbow you can move and scale, and a spring-themed filter featuring two green bushes you can tap to make bunnies pop out. (Ars Technica)
Possibly the most important development here is that Snap’s new technology lets digital objects react to physical space. Move closer to the object and it increases in size. Move your hand into the camera’s field of view and you can move some of the objects. These are not flat stickers but digital objects that become part of your world.
Being able to augment the world around you offers a whole new realm of creative possibilities. As marketing experts note, we may see a lot of content that will link to product and brands in the near future. And there are fascinating possibilities for its use in the learning environment.
Interestingly, Snapchat’s New World lenses were announced during the first day of F8, Facebook’s main developer conference and only days after Facebook released its open source Surround 360 camera platform. Now Instagram, FB Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook have features that mimic Snapchat unique camera-first interface with filters and disappearing stories. The world is rapidly moving to AR and the race open to everyone. AR eyewear will come, but at the moment the action is on our smartphones.
Snap and Social Media
As social media companies venture into AR, Snap brings a creative approach and new ways for us to communicate through its social and interactive filters. Wired highlighted a quote from Snap’s IPO documents published in February that reveals where these developments are taking us:
In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones.
It should come as no surprise that Snap now refers to itself as a “camera company.” But the meaning of that phrase has morphed into much more than manufacturing cameras. Snap makes eyewear that takes AR photos (Spectacles) and a platform that augments your world. The camera screen becomes a portal into a digital world.
While Snap’s filters and AR are still rather primitive, this is only the first step in a wave of augmented reality developments. New applications in education and entertainment will become common when our smartphones are capable of rendering more sophisticated Augmented Reality experiences. Will the market go for Snap’s very focused approach on creative uses of AR? Or will it go for the major social media platforms like Facebook that want to do everything?
As with all things Snap, the New World lenses continue to push the boundaries of what we can do with our smartphones. Expect to see a lot more AR in our world this year!
Maya Georgieva is an EdTech and XR strategist, futurist and speaker with more than 15 years of experience in higher education and global education policy. Her most recent work focuses on innovation, VR/AR and Immersive storytelling, design and digital strategy. Maya actively writes and speaks on the topics of innovation, immersive storytelling and the future of education and consults organizations and startups in this space.