After announcing its coming 'Local Lenses' at its Partner Summit back in June, Snapchat's first activation of this type is now live, with Carnaby Street in London the site of Snap's new 'City Painter' collaborative AR project.
As you can see in the video, Local Lenses essentially enable users to interact with an AR overlay of a real-world location. You can virtually paint whatever you like over the shops and streets, and your contribution will then be visible to any other Snapchat user who visits the site.
The process is essentially an expansion of Snapchat's 'Landmarkers' AR option, which enable users to apply Lenses that interact with global landmarks, like The Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, or the Flat Iron Building in New York.
Local Lenses apply the same approach, but on a broader scale, mapping entire streets in the AR, and creating a persistent, evolving digital re-creation of the space.
That, eventually, could lead to whole new, interactive AR experiences, like getting an overlay of a menu when you hover over a restaurant, or session times when you view a cinema. But right now, Snap is in the early implementation stage of its full AR space mapping, and interactive digital art spaces like this are the next stage in that process.
Facebook experimented with similar with its SLAM virtual art installation project back in 2017, while Snapchat, too, has tested its own digital art displays that virtually place an artwork in a designated space which people can visit. But this is the first time that Snap's offering an interactive element, taking its digital installation tools to the next level, which, as noted, could point to the next stage for AR implementation.
Which, presumably, would also tie into AR glasses, which Snapchat may or may not be developing. But Facebook definitely is, along with Apple. In fact, it's possible that rather than evolving its Spectacles product on its own, Snapchat could be looking to partner with Apple on its AR glasses, given that Snap has worked with Apple in the past on various AR tools.
A combined Apple/Snapchat AR wearables approach could be what both need to be able to challenge Facebook, which is moving fast on its Project Aria prototype.
Wearable AR is clearly the next stage, and it's not 100% clear yet how Snap plans to keep up with that shift, when it does eventually come.
Local Lenses are clearly a step in this direction, but how, exactly, Snap plans to evolve its Spectacles into a fully-functional AR tool, we don't know yet.
Either way, it's another interesting development, which points to the next stage for digital engagement with real-world spaces. And that, eventually, will also facilitate new advertising and outreach opportunities via the same.