By now, a lot of people are surely already familiar with Snapchat's Lenses. They're oft-wacky filters that add a spring in anyone's Snaps by employing, fun, sometimes ridiculous, and impressive AR-powered overlays. Those are reportedly being overhauled.
Snap, Inc., parent company of Snapchat, is developing an upgraded iteration of Lenses that can overlay augmented reality animations on top of environments captured by the user's smartphone, reports suggest.
New Snapchat Lenses
The tidbit comes from The Information, who reports that the improved Lenses are already well into their internal testing period. They're described as "smarter" Lenses in contrast with preexisting Snapchat Lenses users have access to today. These lenses can interact with real-life objects and "identify environmental elements," which allows them to integrate digital effects scenes. This seems to suggest that the new set of filters will have object recognition built-in, which is a striking, if unsurprising progression Snapchat is bringing to the table.
Don't Expect Them To Arrive Any Time Soon
What isn't clear for now is whether users can place AR elements within scenes manually or if the app takes care of that automatically. Though it's still being developed as of this time, The Information reports that the new Lenses won't roll out any time soon: they're not on "Snap's near-term product roadmap."
However, when finally released, the upgraded Lenses will land on Snapchat for both Android and iOS.
The Information noted how this can be fodder for potential advertising tactics. A particular brand, for instance, can collaborate with Snapchat to develop a tailor-made lens that can output AR elements when pointed to one of that brand's products. Other ideas could also be explored down the line.
The notion seems very likely, as it wouldn't be the first time for brands to enlist Snapchat for advertising. Back in November, it collaborated with film studio Screen Gems to promote Underworld: Blood Wars via a custom lens that used the phone's gyroscope to have users pan around their environment.
If indeed on the cards, the timing of the lenses stands out, considering that Snapchat is currently on its way to an initial public offering worth an estimated $25 billion, the largest U.S. tech IPO since Facebook's in 2012.
Snapchat's Lenses handiwork is thanks to Looksery, a Ukranian computer vision startup Snap Inc., shopped for a cool $150 million in 2015.
Lenses are applied in two phases: Snapchat first models faces and environments in 3D space taking many factors into account, which are all working to bolster the illusion of the overlay. Afterward, the camera movement is processed real-time, outputting the effect.
What metrics come into play that will allow the app to recognize objects is yet to be determined, but the notion is not at all suspect. Smartphones have been becoming more and more powerful these days. AR and object recognition shouldn't be much of a strain.
All told, Snapchat is clearly hinging on its AR game here. Snap Inc.'s Spectacles, released last year, for instance, already has implications of AR already built-in, which could spell expanded AR features for the glasses down the line too.
Any wild but promising ideas for smarter AR lenses? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!