Snapchat has held its annual Partner Summit, where it announced a range of new tools and features , including advanced AR tools for eCommerce brands, improved systems to help more businesses create AR experiences, and a little drone called ‘Pixy’ that will follow you around and upload the video to the app.
Which is probably the best place to start - developed by Zero Zero Robotics, which Snap partnered with last year Snap’s new, $230 Pixy drone will fit in your pocket, making it easy to take with you anywhere.
As you can see in this clip, your personal Pixy drone will fly a few feet above you, and capture both photos and videos. When it’s done, the drone will upload all of its content into your Snap Memories, so you pick and choose what you upload to the app, or any other app by downloading the content.
It could spark a new creative trend, though the price point could be a little hefty for a few custom shots. But it’ll no doubt see a level of adoption, and once those first examples start getting uploaded, it could get popular fast.
The Pixy drone will initially be available in the US and France via Pixy.com.
Commerce is another evolving focus for Snap, particularly via AR, and the company has already established partnerships with a range of big name brands to create both real world and digital clothing integrations, and develop the next stage of product discovery.
Indeed, over the last year, Snap says that some 250 million of its users have engaged with AR shopping Lenses, using them more than 5 billion times.
Building on this, Snap’s looking to make it easier for brands to build AR experiences, with new AR shopping templates in Lens Web Builder, and a new image processing tool that’ll enable businesses to transform their existing product photography into AR-ready assets for try-on Lens experiences.
As you can see here, through this, Snapchatters will be able to try on outfits digitally, by taking a full body selfie, and then scrolling through your options.
Which users will be able to do in Snap’s ‘Dress Up’ element, which will put more dedicated focus on its various shopping and try-on tools.
It’s kind of like Instagram’s Shop tab, but more advanced - and as more brands upload more of their products, it could become an increasingly valuable destination for product discovery within the app.
Snap’s also developing another tool that will make it easier for brands to build wholly digital versions of their products, with a new 3D asset manager platform where brands can order or create 3D models of their products for in app display.
Meta is developing similar, with a view to providing more engaging, immersive product experiences, and improving in-app shopping, while an expanded benefit is that it will also enable Meta to add more objects into its library of 3D models that creators can then include within their Horizon Worlds VR creations.
Snap will also be looking at how it can make use of the same, which could see these 3D models playing a part in its coming AR Spectacles experience.
Which it’s still staying relatively silent about. Various developers and testers are already experimenting with the advanced glasses, but Snap hasn’t shared anything new on the project since last March.
Though it did share this:
Eventually, that’s Snap’s vision - which CEO Evan Spiegel noted, while also taking a subtle dig at Meta’s metaverse plans:
“Augmented reality is important because it combines the power of computing with what we see and experience right in front of us in the real world. It allows us to use computing in a familiar environment, weaving technology seamlessly into our lives.”
In other words, you don’t have to shut yourself off within a fully immersed VR environment to experience the best of what Snap has to offer - which is arguably a good thing, as there’s no telling what the negative impacts of a wholly enclosed metaverse experience might be over a prolonged period of usage.
I mean, social media can already be fairly harmful right now, and it can feel difficult to escape. You can only imagine that will be even worse when it’s all around you, taking up your entire perspective.
On the creator front, Snap also previewed its coming ‘Director Mode’, which will provide more advanced editing tools within the app, including dual camera controls so you can use the front and back facing cameras at the same time to create 360 degree content.
That could actually lend itself to VR-like experiences in the app, via more immersive Lens experiences - though as Spiegel notes, that’s not really Snap’s focus.
Over on Lens Studio, meanwhile, Snap’s also rolling out some new effects tools and updates, including Lens Cloud, which will facilitate additional data storage to build more expansive AR experiences, and ray tracing which will make AR elements look even more realistic.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on in Snap’s creative tools, nothing entirely groundbreaking, as such (like AR Spectacles would be), but some major developments either way, which will help Snap maintain its lead in the AR space.
Which is does hold, despite going up against far better resourced rivals. Time and time again, Snap has shown its nous in the market, which has enabled it to beat out other apps, and while Meta and Apple are also building AR experiences, there’s nothing to say that Snap won’t keep winning here, through sheer resourcefulness and market understanding, which is already propelling it ahead.
Finally, in addition to its product updates, Snap has also shared some new usage insights, which further underline its expanding reach and influence.
The app now reaches over 600 million monthly active users, up from the 500 million that it reported in May 2021, while Snap also serves more than 332 million daily actives, as it recently shared in its Q1 update.
For comparison, Twitter, which is generally considered to be more influential, has 217 million daily actives - so Snap has over 100 million more users than the platform soon to be owned by Elon Musk.
Of course, part of Twitter’s influence is also who uses it, with journalists, politicians and other voices of note regularly sharing their thoughts, but even so, the size of Snap is worth highlighting, as it still feels like an overlooked element.
In addition to this, Snap says that it now reaches more than 75% of 13-34 year olds in over 20 countries.
Again, the significance of Snap should not be overlooked.
Overall, the presentation was a great showcase of Snap’s evolving tools, and its advancing focus on AR, which will hold it in good stead as we move into the next stage of digital connection.
Again, given the concerns with VR, and the need for headset sales to significantly ramp up to secure optimal adoption, AR will arguably be more influential either way, and Snap’s clever tools and integrations are already showing what’s possible, on several fronts, and before anyone else even gets close to that next stage.