As Facebook aggressively copies the features that made Snapchat popular, the ephemeral messaging app is pushing further into the high-tech world of augmented reality.
Augmented reality, or AR, is the nascent technology being developed by tech titans like Apple and startups like Google-backed Magic Leap. While virtual reality places you in a completely virtual world, AR places virtual objects onto the real world and lets you interact with them.
Snapchat pioneered AR in the social media space with its popular puppy dog and flower crown selfie filters, which it calls lenses. On Tuesday, Snapchat announced a new set of rear-camera lenses that let you place virtual objects in the real world using the app’s camera.
Let the GIF explain:
“We launched Lenses a year and a half ago as a whole new way to express ourselves on Snapchat,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Since then, we’ve become puppies, puked rainbows, face-swapped with our best friends — and begun to explore how Lenses can change the world around us.”
There are no sponsored World Lenses yet, and a spokeswoman declined to comment on whether advertisers will be able to create their own AR objects to show to the app’s 158 million users. But it’s safe to say that the feature will eventually be opened up to advertisers like Snapchat’s other sponsored lenses and geofilters.
Here’s an announcement video by Snapchat about Tuesday’s update: