Jeff Koons art in Central Park with Snapchat ART

Snapchat to launch new AR platform, Snapchat ART

Image credit: Snapchat

Snapchat is preparing to launch an augmented reality (AR) platform featuring the work of artists placed in public spaces for people to view using their phones.

It will allow for virtual works of art to be pinned in locations in AR. Initially, the platform will prominently feature the work of American pop-artist Jeff Koons, best known for his mirror-surface sculptures of everyday objects.

Details of the platform were leaked hours ahead of its intended launch, as users applied a ‘time hack’ to a new website, art.snapchat.com. By simply setting a computer’s clock ahead by a few hours and tweaking the source code, the website - which features a countdown to the launch - was made to reveal plans for the AR platform.

An unlisted YouTube video, which has now been removed, described the nature of Snapchat’s partnership with Koons and revealed a giant version of a chrome animal balloon sculpture (“Balloon Dog”) placed in Central Park. When users walk past the location of a piece of ‘Snapchat ART’, the app will suggest adopting a lens which allows the virtual art to be viewed from all angles through their phone.

According to the website, Koons’ work will be on display in major cities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France and Brazil. Snapchat will also be inviting artists to sign up for the platform to add their own works.

The feature is reportedly based on technology developed by Cimagine, an Israel-based AR start-up acquired by Snapchat in December 2016. Cimagine’s AR platform allows customers to place well-rendered, virtual versions of products in their homes before committing to buying them.

Snapchat has made extensive use of AR technology to provide a range of facial filters - which add features such as flower headdresses or makeup to the user’s face within their phone screens - and in their ‘World Lenses’: filters to apply to the environment which apply rainbows, anthropomorphised hot dogs or other additions to the real-world scenery.

Following the enormous but short-lived success of Pokémon Go in finally bringing AR to the masses, Snapchat has established itself as the leading app in the field, retaining popularity among young users with an ever-growing range of playful facial filters, geofilters and ‘World Lenses’.

The introduction of Spectacles - sunglasses with embedded cameras for uploading photos and video to the platform - marked Snap’s first move into hardware.

In April 2017, Facebook announced an integrated AR platform with similarities to Snapchat filters, ‘Camera Effects’, which allows for information, images - including artwork - or enhancements to be added to real-life scenes.

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