I have a theory. If you read my stuff regularly, you may have heard it before, so apologies for the rehash, but my theory is that Snapchat's 'World Lenses', released back in November, were never actually intended to be contained within the limitations of your phone. World Lenses, I believe, were designed for Spectacles, which Snap Inc. released only five weeks before their World Lenses announcement.
Spectacles, as you're no doubt aware, enable the wearer to record and upload video to Snapchat, using a 115 degree angle lens, which resembles the human eye's field of vision.
Here's what @Spectacles means by "circular video". Such a simple well-executed idea. pic.twitter.com/NGZ8GTy1CP- Ernest Ojeh (@namzo) September 24, 2016
While World Lenses enable the viewer to overlay digital projections onto the scene.
the new @snapchat update lets you drop acid whenever you want, wherever you are pic.twitter.com/6P4OprQwy8- Sam Sheffer (@samsheffer) November 8, 2016
Imagine these two functionalities in one - the ability to overlay these scenes through your glasses. This, I believe, was the broader vision for Spectacles, but technical limitations and the need to move faster (and likely the need to prove people would buy 'Snapchat glasses') meant they had to release a more restrained version of Spectacles to begin with.
Snap Inc.'s latest update of World Lenses further underlines why I think this is the case, and also seems a little disappointing when you consider what could be.
This week, Snapchat has launched its 'new' World Lenses, three dimensional objects which can overlay on your videos which shift and move in response to your actions.
They look pretty cool, right? And considering their existing Lenses are already used by one in three Snapchat users every day, the enhancement makes sense, and will likely prove popular.
But still, it feels a little disappointing. Imagine you could view these through your Spectacles - imagine Spectacles were able to overlay Snapchat effects on a scene, as opposed to just capturing them. Whether that ever becomes a reality or not, it does seem like these tools were meant for something bigger.
Using the new World Lenses looks relatively simple - you double-tap the screen to switch to the rear-facing camera and you'll be able to see your World Lens options. Choose which one you want, affix it to a point in your field of view and record.
In some ways, it's similar to the 3D stickers which Snapchat released last April, but a more advanced version - those stickers remained flat, whereas the new World Lenses will scale and move as you do.
Also worth noting, Facebook's released a suite of similar tools at their F8 conference, which look to take the ideas beyond what Snapchat's offering. Will that limit their usage? I've always said that the real pressure from Facebook will come when their Snapchat-clones move beyond mere copies and into new, advanced options which improve upon the original. Facebook looks to have done that with their new AR tools - unless Snap Inc.'s working on Spectacles 2.0, and can get them out soon, I'd suggest the challenge of Facebook is only going to become stronger, and harder to combat
Snapchat's always been about community, about engaging with friends, as opposed to broadcasting, and that ethos seems to be why people believe Snapchat will power on, despite the rising change from Facebook. But that may not be enough when newer tools and better options are on offer elsewhere.
Definitely, there's opportunity in these new Snap tools, but it'll be interesting to see their user numbers in their first earnings report next month, and to monitor the impacts of Facebook's incoming new options.