Snapchat’s Amazing New Filters Drop Digital Stuff Into Your Real World

Snapchat’s filters aren’t just for puke rainbow selfies anymore. A new feature called World Lenses lets you actually place animated digital items, ranging from rainbows to giant cups of coffee to phrases like “OMG,” into your environment.

All you do is drag, drop, and pinch-to-scale. Then, as you walk around with your phone, the object stays put like a digital sculpture. There’s no doubt, given Snap’s unprecedented track record in leveraging augmented reality into successful ad campaigns, we’ll see sponsored World Lenses soon.

The timing is by no means coincidental; mere hours after Snap’s new feature was announced, Facebook unveiled a huge push into augmented reality at its annual F8 conference. To be honest, Facebook’s initiatives look far more advanced than what Snapchat debuted today. Facebook has APIs that can actually identify objects in a scene, and offer custom animations as a result. Then again, that feature is still in beta for developers. Snapchat shipped its new AR feature to a hundred million users today.

World Lenses were captivating when I tried them myself, even if my cluttered apartment seemed to sometimes confuse the software’s ability to spot a flat plane. Even still, the biggest surprise was not in how they looked or worked, but that as I was swiping a rainbow across my son’s play table, I decided that I wanted to move his firetruck, too. And rather than reaching for the real object, I poked at the screen instead, momentarily confused why the real toy was stuck in place.

Augmented reality is just peeking its way into the mainstream. And already, it’s confusing the hell out of what is real, and what isn’t.MW