Snap is said to be working on a collection of "smarter lenses" that would let users overlay virtual images and objects onto landscapes in the real world, "not just faces," and let them interact with the virtual objects similar to augmented reality (via The Information). The smarter lenses are an advancement of the "world lenses" that came to Snapchat last year, which placed various simple animations on top of real world scenes, like clouds and snowstorms.
The difference with the new technology is that it "can identify environmental elements," subsequently allowing virtual objects to interact with objects in the real world, instead of acting as a simple filter. As with most of Snapchat's popular camera additions, the smarter lenses are believed to eventually lead to bountiful advertising opportunities for brands on the social media app.
Currently, the new lenses are only being tested on the company's internal version of the app, and they are "not on Snap's near-term product roadmap." If and when they are released, people familiar with the matter believe users would receive the lenses first, ahead of advertisers, who could then construct campaigns and strategies based on how Snapchat's user base reacts to the advanced feature.
The addition of new features and a potential boost to advertising support is seen as a keen strategy on Snap's part, amid news that the company is planning to go public in the coming weeks.
Smarter lenses for its users could also help convince Snapchatters to stick around amid growing competition from Instagram and Facebook. Last summer Instagram launched a copy of Snapchat's disappearing story idea, called Instagram Stories, and now Facebook plans to extend the feature into the main Facebook app with Facebook Stories. According to Facebook, Instagram has 150 million users posting to Stories every day, roughly mirroring Snapchat's reported user base.