Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Snapchat can already recognize faces well enough to apply puppy dog ears and floral crowns, so why not use the technology to blur the background for a better selfie? Apparently, Snapchat is thinking the same thing. Reverse engineering of the Snapchat app recently uncovered a handful of potential features for the Snapchat camera.

The biggest feature in a potential new interface for the camera is a portrait mode, an effect imitating the dual lens smartphones but using data from the image itself instead of a depth map. The feature is likely an expansion of Snapchat’s facial recognition algorithms that allow for those augmented reality masks. 

Instagram launched a similar feature earlier this year that doesn’t require a dual lens smartphone to work. Instead, the Instagram mode called Focus uses machine learning to determine where to blur and what parts to keep sharp.

The updated Snapchat camera interface uncovered by the reverse engineering effort also shows a batch capture, which takes multiple photos in quick succession. The feature has long been part of dedicated cameras and more recently native camera apps as well, making it easier to capture that perfectly timed shot. A selfie timer is also displayed on that potential Snapchat camera interface, along with the option to turn on a grid to use as a compositional aid.

Outside of the camera, Snapchat also appears to be testing a feature called Charms, which labels some of the things you may have in common with your Snapchat friends. The feature appears to be initially centered on when you were born — you can share a birthstone charm, astrological sign, horoscope, or even a “birthday twin” charm with friends for birthdays a week or less apart.

The possible new features come from Jan Manchun Wong, who frequently reverse engineers social media apps to find hidden features. The features aren’t publicly available yet, but the existence of the new tools in code suggests that Snapchat is at least testing or planning to test the features. Like any test, the existence of the features in code doesn’t always mean that the update is eventually coming to Snapchat — the tests could fail in testing or Snapchat could simply decide to go in a different direction.

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