Snapchat’s Augmented Reality


The mobile picture & video messaging app, Snapchat, has come a long way from its simple and humble beginnings. Originally launched as “Picaboo” in 2011, the company now has a staggering $16 billion valuation and has successfully retained longevity by constantly adding new features and updates. The company’s video traffic is even catching up with Facebook, at 7 billion monthly views with Facebook leading at 8 billion monthly views. Plenty of the videos that are being viewed on the app are utilizing augmented reality because of a recent camera feature. In fact, Snapchat has been expressing interest in the AR field for quite a while now.

Snapchat initially garnered interest in AR when Google Glass publically launched for a limited time and gained attention in 2014. During winter of 2014, Snapchat spent $10 million to acquire Vergence Laboratories, a company in Venice, CA that created the video recording glasses known as Epiphany Eyewear. Around this time, Snapchat also purchased, a QR-code generator, that appears in the apps “Snaptags” function which provides a quick and easy way to add friends. The company has also hired many people from augmented reality groups such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, PTC’s Vuforia, and more. This information could either mean that Snapchat will be entering the wearable technology space soon with smart glasses or that they will continue to develop the augmented reality software that is already thriving inside the app.

On top of the screen is where the Snaptag is located. Users can add their friends simply by pointing their camera at the tag.

In September of 2015, Snapchat deployed an innovative feature called “Lenses”. Lenses reinvents the selfie with an ever-changing variety of augmented reality animations. Users can experience augmented reality by pointing their cameras onto their faces. After a second or two of scanning, the user is able to choose between many different facial animations that change daily. If a user finds a lens that they like, they are able to purchase it for $0.99 to own the lens indefinitely. Snapchat has also been selling personalized Lenses for corporate sponsors, like Fox, to use.

Showcase of the different filters that are activated with specific facial expressions.

It is quickly becoming more apparent that augmented and virtual reality will completely take over the mainstream. The social media giant, Facebook has already acquired Oculus and now Snapchat is showing major interest in the AR field. Historically, AR has been hugely overlooked in comparison to VR but Snapchat seems to be looking to change that. With Snapchat’s 100+ million daily users, more people are becoming exposed with augmented reality. Snapchat is the only company that is introducing AR to the millennial audience at an extremely rapid rate. Snapchat is the undisputed leader of ephemeral messaging and at this rate, they will probably be the leader in AR as well.

Here at uSens Inc, we are aiming to lessen the gap between AR and VR so we are delighted to see Snapchat help popularize AR even further. Snapchat may even move the focus of AR to social networking just as how VR is closely associated with gaming.

-Amanze Ugoh