The Future of Mobile

Snapchat introduces 3D lenses to transform your surroundings

Tyrone Stewart

Snapchat has launched new 3D lenses that provide live filters for the world around you, as it dives deeper into the world of augmented reality (AR) in the hope of keeping Facebook at arm's length.

The ‘World Lenses’ work through the rear-facing camera on smartphones. Through opening the camera in the Snapchat app, users are able to pick from a selection of lenses by tapping on the screen. Once the user has selected a lens, they are able to place it anywhere on the screen and the app will begin behaving as if the object exists in the real world. It’s very much a step in the direction toward how many envisaged AR when the term first got traction.

“We launched Lenses over a year ago as a whole new way to express ourselves on Snapchat,” said Snap 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.”

The release of the World Lenses from Snapchat coincided, perhaps deliberately, with Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference.

In his keynote address, Mark Zuckerberg’s major theme was how Facebook are going to harness the power of the camera and put a lot of effort into AR. He claimed that “people standing around looking at blank walls” would be “a thing of the future”.

One thing is for sure, we can expect to see some iteration of World Lenses from Facebook sooner rather than later – because it’s already copied every other feature from Snapchat. Whether Facebook intends to create any of its own original features remains to be seen.