Analyze and Optimize the World – Here’s How Snapchat Plans the Metaverse for Everyone
Snapchat plans to infiltrate the world with augmented reality on an unprecedented scale. Reality should be enriched by every smartphone in the world. The digital group is working on its own idea for the Metaverse – and waiting for the “iPhone moment”.
FFor many users, Snapchat is above all one thing: a continuous and fun carnival. Using all kinds of filters, you can disguise your own face on the smartphone screen with the selfie camera. By turning your head into broccoli, spitting out a rainbow, or simply aging yourself a few years.
Users, mostly younger, send each other photos and videos. But Snap, the company behind the messenger, has a completely different plan: The Santa Monica, Calif. provider wants to subvert the world – with augmented reality.
Responsible for this is Qi Pan, who is working with a global team of developers on the future of Snap. Augmented reality is digital information that places itself on top of real reality and enriches it. It can also include images. “With artificial intelligence and machine learning, things are possible today that we didn’t dare dream of years ago,” Pan says in an interview with WELT.
Meanwhile, Snap’s plans have long gone beyond face filters. The latest project to date: Landmarks. The application recognizes one of the 30 famous sites via the smartphone camera and decorates or distorts it. This is how the British Parliament’s Big Ben steeple bends – at least on display – or how a dragon lands on the Flatiron Building in New York. 30 of these landmarks have now been saved as 3D objects and can be alienated, including the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
For a few weeks, Snapchat users have been able to scan their own environment with a smartphone in order to then allow alienation. This currently works with newer iPhone models as they have a lidar sensor that can scan the environment in great detail.
200,000 developers worldwide work on Snapchat filters
But in the future, this should be possible with every smartphone camera, reveals Qi Pan. No other company connects as many people with augmented reality (AR) as Snap. According to its own statements, an average of 319 million people view around six billion pieces of AR content every day. 200,000 developers worldwide work on Snapchat filters. Snapchat reaches over 13 million users in Germany.
Clever extensions of reality are now also staged as a group experience by Snapchat. Snap showed what that means on a street in London, which was fully captured as a 3D model. Snapchat users can spray paint on the facades of houses there. Each participant sees in real time what the other paint sprayers are doing. Pan calls it multi-user AR – and promises more.
But Snap doesn’t expect the real breakthrough for another five to ten years. According to Pan, that’s how long it will take for the glasses to be developed enough to bring augmented reality to the mass market. “We’ll see the iPhone moment for this technology then,” he says. Until then, there were a number of issues that had to be addressed, including power consumption, processing power, temperature development, and width of the field of view.
Snap itself is already developing its own glasses, which the company calls Spectacles. The latest version is capable of displaying AR content. However, the battery only lasts 30 minutes. So far, only developers have been allowed to experiment with the glasses, they are not sold yet.
With glasses come other applications. “We have to think beyond entertainment then,” Pan says. Many possible applications are not useful for the smartphone. This applies to the display of information, for example when jogging or for use in training and information transfer. In general, it is not yet clear how AR glasses will be used in the future. Gesture and voice recognition is possible. But Snap recently acquired French start-up NextMind, which is working on technologies to control devices solely by thought. However, Snap doesn’t want to reveal any details just yet.
Snap competes with much larger competitors. Apple is reportedly working on AR glasses, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. And the Facebook group even recently renamed itself Meta due to its emphasis on the Metaverse and announced high spending on research and development. Metaverse is what Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg calls the connection between the real world and the digital world, where users meet, play, communicate, learn, shop and work.
Snap development boss Pan isn’t deterred by Meta’s commitment. “It’s good when you invest a lot here,” he says. However, Metaverse would have different meanings for businesses. Snap’s goal is to make the real world a better place for people every day. “We don’t want to take people out of the real world into a purely virtual environment.”
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