Snap Inc, the parent company behind messaging app Snapchat, announced new features including a revamped AR camera, Snap Games and integration with third-party apps like Netflix, Tinder, VSCO and India’s JioSaavn at its first ‘Snap Partner Summit’ in Los Angeles, California. Snapchat’s announcements come as it faces increased competition from social media giant Facebook and its Instagram app along with slowing growth.
“In the United States, Snapchat now reached nearly 75 per cent of all 13-34 year olds and we reach 90 of per cent of 13-24 year olds. In fact, we reach more 13-24 year olds than Facebook or Instagram in the United States, the UK, France, Canada and Australia,” revealed Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel in his opening keynote at the developer conference.
Spiegel also reaffirmed Snap’s commitment as a ‘camera company’ highlighting that the Snapchat camera allows people to use computing in their natural environment. For Snapchat, Lenses have been its greatest strength thanks to the Augmented Reality (AR) support, and it seeks to double down on this with the new features.
Snapchat will get a new AR bar, which will be below the regular Lens carousel. The new AR bar will help users discover and navigate through the number of Lenses on the platform and other features of the camera, including Scan. Snap executives revealed that more than 400,000 Lenses have been created by the developer community on the platform.
Further, the Snapchat Lens Studio 2.0, which developers can use to create their own Lenses or filters, will get new features like body, hand tracking as well as pet tracking. This will allow developers to create more Lenses, which have an AR experience for the user’s hand or body or the pet, depending on where the camera is pointed.
Snapchat is also announcing Landmarkers, which are Lenses specifically designed for iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Capitol One building in Washington, Buckingham Palace, The Flatiron Building in New York City, and The Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. So when a user points the camera at any of these iconic buildings, they will be able to choose from a variety of Lenses created specifically for them.
Another update to the Snapchat camera is the addition to the scan feature, which is activated when a user long-presses the camera inside the app. While Shazam and Amazon were part of this, Snapchatters will now have the option of seeing GIFs when they long press or using the PhotoMath app, when they point the camera to a maths equation and do a long press.
According to Snap executives, they are layering utility functions over time to the AR-driven camera in the app. Snap also said that all lenses are curated for the platform, and checked against intellectual property as well as for being offensive.
But Snapchat isn’t just stopping at improving its camera by adding more lenses. It will soon allow users to post Stories directly to other apps, starting with Tinder in the summer. Snap announced this as part of its Snap Kit, which is its tool for partners and developers to integrate some of Snapchat’s popular features.
As part of its Snap Kit, the company announced App Stories, wherein third-party developers could soon invite their user base to create custom Stories for their platforms, right from the Snapchat app. In Tinder’s case, a user will be able to create a Story on Snapchat, and then have the option of posting it to the ‘My Tinder Story’ inside the Snapchat app. The story will then appear on their Tinder profile as well. Users would need to link their Snapchat and Tinder profile for this.
Snap also announced new features for its Bitmoji Kit, where Fitbit will now show Bitmoji on the smartwatch clock face and dynamically update these throughout the day. As part of the Creative Kit, developers like JioSaavn, GoFundMe, Netflix, VSCO will add support for their content to reflect on Snapchat.
In JioSaavn’s case, a user will be able to share the music they are listening to on Snapchat, which will include a linkback to the JioSaavn app. In the case of Netflix, members will be able to select a title they are watching as a post to Snapchat. Again on VSCO, edited images from the app could be posted directly to the Snapchat app. All these will come under Snap Kit’s Creative Kit, which offer integrations to third-party apps with link backs to the original app or site.
Snap Games will be a highly curated affair with Snap teaming up with select developers to create games, which users will be able to play inside the app. It will also rely on the Bitmoji avataars to let users play games with their friends. A new ‘Rocket’ symbol will be added to the chat bar at the bottom, which will show a link to these games.
Snap Games is launching with six games at first — Bitmoji Party by Snap where 3D versions of Bitmojis will compete in mini-games, Alphabear Hustle with Spry Fox, C.A.T.S (Crash Arena Turbo Stars) Drift Race with ZeptoLab, Snake Squad with Game Closure, Tiny Royale with Zynga and Zombie Rescue Squad with PikPok.
Snake Squad and Tiny Royale will both be battle royale style games. Snap Inc says all games are designed on HTML 5. While gaming there will be a chat bar at the bottom, where a user and their friends will be able to text each other while playing. Another social feature of these games will be the option of live voice chats while playing.
Snap says these games are designed exclusively for Snapchat, and this is a closed platform. The company says it has been working with these developers for some time to create the games. The games platform will be rolling out slowly, though officially they will be available today. For monetisation, there will be six-second ads in the games as well.
Snap is also looking to ramp up monetisation on its platform and will launch a ‘Snap Audience Network’ soon, where it will offer third-party developers the opportunity to monetise their apps with the company’s full-screen mobile ad format, known as Snap Ads. The audience network will launch with iOS integrations first and will be available in the United States only.
In addition to this, the company also announced new original Shows with a focus on its core audience which are teens and college students. Shows announced include Two Sides, which navigates a couple’s breakup, Sneaker Heads which follows the misadventures of three college freshmen to name two. Snap is also working on a show with Buzzfeed, which is yet unnamed. It also announced a new docuseries called ‘While Black.’
Disclaimer: The author is in Los Angeles at the invite of Snap Inc.