Snapchat Is Working On Smarter AR Lenses

Snapchat Is Working On Smarter AR Lenses
February 2, 2017

The new Snapchat Lenses that are under development could make your future Snaps cooler.


Snapchat’s Lenses, the in-app filters that spice up Snaps with effects like dog ears and snowfall, are reportedly due for an overhaul. The Information reports that Snap, Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, is working on an updated version of Lenses that will overlay augmented reality animations onto scenes.


The experimental Lenses, which are reportedly being tested internally, are described as “smarter” than the Lenses in Snapchat’s existing library. They can interact with real-world objects and “identify environmental elements,” allowing them to superimpose digital effects atop Snaps.


It’s unclear whether the Lenses be applied automatically or let users place them manually within detected scenes. And the new Lenses aren’t expected to see the light of day for some time — they’re “not on Snap’s near-term product roadmap,” according to The Information.


If and when the new Lenses are released, though, they’re expected to hit the Snapchat app on iOS and Android. The Information noted the potential for advertisers. A brand like Pepsi, for example, could sponsor a Lens that fits atop real-world bottles.


It wouldn’t be the first time Snapchat’s tapped Lenses for commercial purposes. In November, it partnered with film studio Screen Gems on a promotional lens for its upcoming release Underworld: Blood Wars, that used a gyroscope to create an “immersive 360-degree environment.”


In the past, the company’s cooked up Ghostbusters AR features for Sony and promotional tie-ins for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Apocalypse. And last year, it released new filters to mark World AIDS Day in collaboration with HIV-fighting organization (RED) and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The timing’s conspicuous, to say the least. Snapchat’s gearing up for an initial public offering worth an estimated $25 billion. If the figure holds, it would make it the largest American tech IPO since Facebook’s in 2012.


Snapchat’s Lenses are a little more complicated than they look. They’re made possible by Looksery, a Ukrainian computer vision startup that Snap, Inc. purchased for $150 million in 2015, and apply Lenses in two phases.


First, Snapchat models faces and environments in 3D space, taking into account rotation and even occlusion so that the overlaid props and effects animate correctly. Then, they process camera movement in real time, producing the finished product.


In a report earlier this year, Vox reported that as smartphones continue to gain processing power, Snapchat will be able to introduce increasingly complex Lenses. In that case, the rumored Lenses may be a sign of more to come.

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