Snapchat introduces World Lenses – live filters for just about anything

Snapchat is adding a new way to use its app that brings its popular filters beyond faces. The new ‘World Lenses’ add augmented reality elements to any scene you can capture with your camera, placing 3D objects you can actually walk around with your smartphone’s camera, which is actually a lot closer to what we used to mean when we said “augmented reality” in its earlier days.

Snap notably doesn’t use “augmented reality” or “AR” once in its blog post announcing the news, preferring instead to talk about how users can “paint the world” with “3D experiences.” The intro video, however, will reveal something pretty familiar to anyone who bought into the early hype of the Nintendo 3DS, which came with AR cards that let you place and virtually interact with 3D graphics that looked like they were anchored to, and blended with, the real world.

Based on the demo videos Snap provided, this is a much more impressive incarnation of AR, however, that requires neither QR codes nor other kludgy markers to anchor and generate the graphics you see applied to whatever’s captured via your camera lens in real time. The gifs below should provide some sense that what’s happening here goes beyond the timid stumblings of the very first smartphone and portable console AR products.

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The should be fairly easy to use – Snap says you just tap the screen while using the rear-facing camera to cycle through available World Lenses, and it adds that these will be updated on a daily basis, too.

This genuinely sounds like a fun, worthwhile addition to Snapchat that builds on the popularity of its previous Lenses launches. But we knew they were coming, and we’ve actually known for a while now: It’s highly likely that Snap’s competitors are aware, too, and it’s probably only a matter of time before they clone this feature the way they have previous tech, too. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity for additional revenue from this new addition to the Snapchat product arsenal, though at launch, there won’t be any sponsored third-party World Lenses.