Snapchat's Dumb New 'World Lenses' Feel Like Magic

Snapchat is about to get way more adorable. The company just launched a major update today introducing its highly anticipated "World Lenses" feature, giving people the ability to drop digital 3D objects into real world scenes. Although the feature is undoubtedly augmented reality (AR), Snapchat curiously does not mention the phrase in its official announcement.

Image: Mike Nunez/Gizmodo

The new "World Lenses" can be accessed from the home screen when you open the app and, most impressively, don't require any additional hardware or special cameras. The new filters let you do one of three things: You can throw flowers into a scene, drop in some psychedelic 3D text like "OMG", or add cute little 3D objects like a smiling rainbow. Adorable!

What's really cool about this new feature is that it just seems to work like magic. I expected it to be finicky, with either a steep learning curve or specific lighting requirements, but, for the most part, I was able to launch the app and immediately start playing around with the new features.

Image: Mike Nunez/Gizmodo

Not everyone agreed. Gizmodo reviews editor Alex Cranz was critical of my appreciation saying, "I can't believe this is a cause for excitement. Did you fuckers not play Pokemon GO?" and later added, "[Project] Tango [is] better."

She's right. This update isn't exactly a giant leap forward, technologically speaking, but it sure feels like one. And even if it isn't a hugely important update, it's one of the rare advances that's just plain old fun without any annoying kinks to work out. It's may not be as sophisticated as something like Project Tango, but it actually demonstrates augmented reality better than (the often buggy) Pokemon GO.

Placing an object in Snapchat works similarly to using some of the selfie filters that already exist in the app. When you tap the screen, you'll briefly see a vector map that shows you what the phone is actually processing. Snapchat's ability to 3D map a setting is actually pretty impressive, especially since it's able to do such a complicated task with a normal phone camera.

Image: Mike Nunez/Gizmodo

My favourite part of these new filters -- and perhaps the most technologically impressive -- is that once they're placed, you can actually walk around the digital objects and see their backside. In some cases, this actually makes the object look even wilder. We reached out to Snapchat for more information about how the new filters work, but had not heard back at time of writing.

If you think this thwarts Facebook's plan to crush Snapchat by copying its every move -- think again. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took the stage earlier today at the annual F8 developer conference, where the young CEO announced a new augmented reality platform for Facebook products like Instagram and Messenger. Facebook has previously been widely ridiculed for copying Snapchat's every move.

[Snap]