Snap has already dipped its toe in the augmented reality game with its wildly popular Snapchat filters, which turn people into adorable puppy-like humans. While that mostly maps things to a person's face, people have wondered whether Snap would use the same tech for the rest of the world.
Today, Snap announced just that, making a new feature called World Lenses live in the app - and marking its biggest push into augmented reality yet, a sign of what may be to come further down the line.
After tapping on the screen while shooting with the rear camera, World Lenses allow you to easily drop 3D objects in whatever you're looking at or shooting. But that's not all. The objects react to things in the real world. For instance, I placed a smiling rainbow on my desk. I then moved my hand to where the rainbow was virtually and pushed it toward my phone's camera. You can also walk around the 3D object and it'll stay still, allowing you to see behind it.
Snap has slowly and stealthily been introducing its audience to augmented reality, and is probably the biggest mainstream propagator of AR outside of Pokémon Go thanks to its filters. These facts, combined with it now considering itself a camera company and having a wearable camera (hello, Spectacles), makes for some interesting tea leaves to read.
It wouldn't be a jump to consider that Snap could eventually release its own pair of augmented reality glasses, a successor to Spectacles that combines the smartglasses' existing capabilities with that of Snapchat itself. After all, it feels like that's where all of this is naturally headed, with augmented reality set to break out of smartphones and onto our faces.
The timing of Snapchat's announcement is significant. Over at Facebook's F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg opened up his keynote address talking about how the camera is the first mainstream AR platform. Not to be left in the filter game dust, Facebook is opening up a new platform called the Camera Effects Platform, which is basically two suites of tools, Frames Studio and AR Studio, that will allow developers to make their own masks and AR elements for Facebook's camera.
The battle for our augmented reality future is on.