Snapchat’s new World Lenses add augmented reality animations to scenes

The rumors have proven true. Snapchat’s Lenses, the in-app filters that spice up Snaps with effects like dog ears and snowfall, were reportedly due for an overhaul, and now, that overhaul has happened.

“While Snapping with the rear-facing camera, simply tap the camera screen to find new Lenses that can paint the world around you with new 3D experiences,” Snapchat’s parent company Snap announced in a news post today. That’s right, friends. World Lenses are here.

With the new feature, you’ll be able to add filters to more than just faces. Rather, you can add AR elements to just about anything your camera lens can see. While Snap is staying away from calling anything “augmented reality” for the time being, for all intents and purposes, it seems like your ability to “paint the world” with “3D experiences” is just that.

This could certainly spell opportunity for advertisers who want to create branded Lenses.

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.

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.

“We launched Lenses over a year ago as a whole new way to express ourselves on Snapchat,” Snap told fans in its news announcement, “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.” And you can keep exploring with World Lenses.

Article originally published 02-01-2017. Updated on 04-18-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of World Lenses release. 

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