Snapchat launched new three-dimensional lenses today called World Lenses, pushing its efforts further into augmented reality (AR). This new feature will bring up new 3D lenses when using the rear-facing camera, allowing you to place 3D objects which you can manipulate in your snaps.

Snapchat AR World Lenses
Image Source: Snapchat/YouTube (screenshot)

How World Lenses works

Once you have selected a lens, you will be able to move it around the screen using your finger to take a photo or a video. After you have placed the object, it appears as it exists in the real world. For instance, when you walk closer to it, the object gets bigger, notes The Verge, and this is what makes this new feature different from Snapchat’s 3D stickers, which can be pinned after taking an image.

“While Snapping with the rear-facing camera, simply tap the camera screen to find new Lenses that can paint the world around you with new 3D experiences!” the company said in a blog post.

The company’s demo video shows the World Lenses filter allowing users to place a rainbow above a group of people sitting at a table and allowing flowers to be planted in the ground.  For now, the 3D lenses include a rainbow, flowers, a cloud and a floating “OMG.” According to the company, the lineup will change daily.

Snapchat pushing further into AR

Snapchat has long been developing AR-based features, but it does not call them AR and the same is true this time also. Not once did the company use the terms “augmented reality” or “AR” when announcing this new addition. Instead, it was busy talking about how users can “paint the world” with “3D experiences.”

According to CNBC, “It’s the biggest step Snap has taken into augmented reality,” and the affect is very similar to one created by Pokemon Go.

The company’s first such (AR-based) product was the original Lenses feature, which allowed users to add funny features like puppy ears to selfies. Next was Spectacles, which allowed users to take 10-second clips for use with Snapchat.

“They don’t have augmented reality features yet, but lower the barrier to entry by making a wearable look cool — unlike, say, Google Glass,” notes CNET.

Being a “camera company”

This new addition supports Snapchat’s vision of being a “camera company.”

“In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones,” the company said in its IPO documents.

Snapchat’s new feature also comes at an interesting time: the first day of Facebook’s F8 developer conference. It will be interesting to see how rival Facebook replies to this new feature from Snapchat. The social networking giant has been copying Snapchat features for while, such as with Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories.

Recently, Facebook revealed that over 200 million people use Instagram Stories daily, compared to 161 million for Snapchat. However, despite Facebook’s copycat tendency, a recent survey from Piper Jaffray found that Snapchat is still a more popular platform among teens.