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From video chat to AR filters, Instagram builds long list of new tools


Instagram’s camera will soon be good for much more than sharing snapshots and Stories, as the photo-sharing platform dips into video chat and more augmented reality filters. On Tuesday, May 1, during the Facebook F8 conference, Instagram announced a list of new changes coming to the platform, including a redesigned Explore section, new options for sharing to Stories and a new “bully filter” for comments. Features like the new augmented reality (AR) filters are already rolling out while options like the video chat and new Explore are currently in testing.

Instagram gains custom AR

Facebook’s AR Studio is now allowing for the same custom AR filters to be built for the Instagram platform. AR Studio allows brands to create and launch their own filters, effectively extending Instagram’s built-in filters like that go-to puppy dog face or aviator shades. The new effects include both the face filters and “world” effects, which add AR in the rear-facing camera.

Instagrammers can find the new effects by spotting them in Stories. When brands launch the new effect, users can tap “try it on” directly from the Story in order to add the effect to the camera’s tray of different AR effects. Instagram says several influencers have new AR effects in the works, including Ariana Grande, Baby Ariel, Liza Koshy, Vogue, and BuzzFeed.

Video chat (finally) coming to Instagram

Instagram’s messaging platform will also soon gain a video chat option. Code inside the app led to rumors of the platform adding the feature in March, and now Instagram has confirmed video chats are coming. The chat option will be available by tapping the camera icon next to the message field. 

While video chat has finally been confirmed, the tool is still in testing phases and Instagram says the feature will roll out globally “soon.”

Explore, Stories and comments also get an F8 makeover

Instagram’s tests also extends to a new Explore feed. Explore is keeping the custom-tailored content for each user, but Instagram is also looking to divvy up the feed into topic channels. At the top of Explore, Instagrammers can select topics like photography or animals to find new images and users to follow. Instagram says the new design aims to make discovery easier, and that the update will be out in the “coming weeks.”

Sharing content to Stories is also getting a makeover through new third-party app integrations. A recent API update is allowing other apps to share directly to Instagram Stories, similar to the tool that allowed other apps to post to the Instagram timeline. GoPro and Spotify are the first to add the integration, one for sharing photos and videos from the popular action camera brand to Stories and the other for sharing music to Stories. Instagram says others are slated to add the tools soon.

Finally, Instagram is going to start sifting through post comments to try to weed out bullies. Building on the filter for offensive comments, the latest filter is designed to look for comments on appearance or character, as well as looking for threats. Along with removing bullying comments, the filter will also notify Instagram of repeat offenders. The bullying comment filter is rolling out automatically set to on, but users can head to Comment Controls in order to turn the tool off. 

Instagram says that bullying has always been against the Community Guidelines, but that the platform is also adding new policies to expand protection for youth.

“Since Mike and I founded Instagram, it’s been our goal to make it a safe place for self-expression and to foster kindness within the community. This update is just the next step in our mission to deliver on that promise,” co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post.

Both the video chat and Explore updates are in testing, while the bullying comments filter and AR filters are heading to users beginning today. But Instagram was just the beginning of the news from the F8 conference. From a new dating app and a way to clear your browser history (finally!) to updates to groups  and messaging, there were announcements galore. Read our recap, then let us know in the comments which you thought was the most important.

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