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Snapchat Has Converted London Into an AR Experiment

Snapchat turns london into AR experiment
Snapchat has recently launched Local Lenses, a unique feature that is one of the large scale and collaborative uses of AR. Snapchat had first mentioned this technology in June and promised to convert entire neighborhoods into virtual canvases. The company has launched it in a small region around Carnaby Street, London.

This Local Lens is named City Painter, and the idea is quite simple – using the Snapchat app’s camera to see Carnaby Street. The City Painter allows you to spray fountains of blue and red paint above the stores, decorating them with pre-designed graffiti murals. Users can also battle with each other to cover the stores in their colors.

It is the latest app from the firm’s London-based camera engineering team, who also developed Landmarkers. It was Snapchat’s first use of augmented reality at scale, letting people place user-developed lenses onto renowned structures. For example, cute characters came above Buckingham Palace, and the Eiffel Tower shot rainbows.

Qi Pan, Snap London’s senior manager of research engineering, described the Local Lens as more complex. The team chose Carnaby Street as it is a fully pedestrianized area, and users could use the City Painter without worrying about the traffic. Also, the street happens to be close to the company’s London offices. Pan explained that it is quite unlikely for users to be clicking photos of the entire street, as there is not something exciting on every part of any street.

Landmarkers involved people pointing the camera at one fixed structure, normally from a single point of view. But, City Painter involved 3D mapping the entire Carnaby Street, so that people can decorate it from all the angles. Snapchat had to obtain visual data from various sources, including assessing clicks of Carnaby Street shared by customers. Pan said that for Local Lenses, Snapchat is leveraging 360-degree camera imagery.

City Painter’s second exciting aspect is that there is a shared experience. In Landmarkers, people were restricted to their AR – what one viewed on his/her phone was different from what others were viewing. But, Local Lens is synchronous and persistent. Pan also said that they have one shared reality, and when someone does something to this world, others can witness the result almost instantly. Those changes persist even if everyone quits the experience and new come up the following day. They can view the space that has been changed by others.

Snap states that already more than one million lenses have been developed using Lens Studio, the firm’s publicly available tool for crafting AR experiences, which Snapchatters have used a lot of times. Also, an excess of 75 percent of the firm’s active users interacts with augmented reality daily. Pan describes that all these trains the Snapchat camera. As it improves, its applications will also grow, from video games to advertising, to mapping and direction, to live experiences. City Painter depicts a basic example in the creation of a ‘mirror world’ – the concept that every building, room, and street in a city will have a virtual twin in the mirror realm.

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