Snap Is Working on Smarter Lenses

Snap is working on a new version of its Lenses product that lets people overlay images onto landscapes in the real world, not just faces. The new technology is a notable expansion of the object recognition within Snapchat’s Lenses, one that could lead to more ad-friendly products.

The new Lenses are currently being tested on Snap’s internal version of the app, according to a person who’s used the feature. They’re an advance on a feature called “world lenses,” introduced last fall, which uses the phone’s rear-facing camera to overlay simple animations like sparkles or snow into the frame. But this new version of the technology can identify environmental elements, letting someone layer an object like a blimp in the sky.

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Snap has already released ad products that incorporate scannable Snap-only QR codes. These so-called “Snap to unlock” ads let people scan a QR code, which unlocks hidden features like a lens or a video. Interestingly, these “Snap to unlock” ads were one of the rare app features that was rolled out to advertisers before users—a somewhat controversial decision within the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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For Snap, which is expected to go public in the coming weeks, pressure is mounting for new features.