Survey and improve the world – here’s how Snapchat plans the Metaverse for everyone
Snapchat plans to penetrate 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 of the Metaverse — and anticipates an “iPhone moment.”
FFor many users, Snapchat is one thing above all: an ongoing and fun carnival. With the help of all kinds of filters, you can hide your face on the smartphone screen using the selfie camera. By turning your head into broccoli, spitting out a rainbow, or just aging yourself for a few years.
Younger users send photos and videos to each other. But Snap, the company behind the messenger, has a very different plan: The provider from Santa Monica, California, wants to disrupt the world — with augmented reality.
Responsible for this is Qi Pan, who works with a global team of developers on Snap’s future. Augmented reality is digital information that is superimposed and enriched by real reality. This may also include images. “With AI and machine learning, things are possible today that we didn’t dare dream of in years,” Pan says in an interview with WELT.
Meanwhile, Snap’s plans have extended beyond face filters. Latest project: Milestones. The app recognizes one of the 30 famous scenes via the smartphone camera and decorates or distorts it. This is how Big Ben in the British Parliament bends – at least on display – or the dragon descends at the Flatiron Building in New York. 30 landmarks have now been registered as 3D objects and can be isolated, including the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
For a few weeks now, Snapchat users have been able to scan their surroundings with a smartphone in order to enable alienation. This currently works with newer iPhone models due to the presence of a lidar sensor that can scan the surroundings in great detail.
200,000 developers around the world are working on Snapchat filters
But in the future, this should be possible with every smartphone camera, Qi Pan reveals. No other company connects as many people with augmented reality (AR) as Snap. According to its own data, 319 million people on average watch around six billion AR content every day. 200,000 developers around the world are working on Snapchat filters. Snapchat reaches more than 13 million users in Germany.
The cool extensions of reality are also now being curated as a group experience by Snapchat. Snap showed what this means on a London street, captured entirely 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 this a multi-user AR — and promises more of it.
But Snap doesn’t expect a real breakthrough for five to ten years. According to Pan, that’s how long it will take for the glasses to develop enough to bring augmented reality to the mass market. “We’ll see the iPhone moment for this technology next,” he says. Until then, there are still a number of issues to be resolved, including power consumption, processing power, temperature development, and field-of-view width.
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 try out the glasses, and they are not yet sold.
With glasses come other applications. “So we have to think beyond entertainment,” Ban says. Many possible applications are not useful for a smartphone. This applies to displaying information, for example when jogging or for use in training and information transmission. In general, it is not yet clear how the augmented reality glasses will operate in the future. Speech and gesture recognition can be visualized. But Snap recently acquired French startup NextMind, which is working on technologies that make it possible to control devices with just your thoughts. However, Snap does not want to reveal any details yet.
Snap competes much more than competitors. Apple is said to be working on augmented reality glasses, but this has yet to be confirmed. The Facebook group recently renamed itself Meta due to its focus on the Metaverse and announced significant spending on research and development. The Metaverse is what Meta President Mark Zuckerberg calls the connection between the real world and the digital world, where users meet, play, communicate, learn, shop and work.
Snap’s head of development doesn’t dissuade Meta’s commitment. “It’s good when a lot is invested here,” he says. However, the Metaverse will have different meanings for companies. Snap’s goal is to make the real world better for people in everyday life. “We don’t want to take people out of the real world into a purely virtual environment.”
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