Snapchat may not be the go-to platform for teens anymore, but that doesn’t mean they are giving up. At it’s virtual Snap Partner’s Summit 2020, the company announced a whole slate of new features to make itself relevant again. From Augmented Reality (AR) to wellbeing, the company has spread its wings, diversifying to become a platform or ecosystem for social media like Facebook. Here’s a rundown of everything Snapchat just announced at its keynote.

AR Platform Updates

Snap’s AR Platform – Lens Studio is getting some minor upgrades today. Snapchat announced SnapML, which lets “any developer bring their own machine learning models directly into Lens Studio to power Lenses.” Wannaby, Prisma, CV2020, and Official Lens Creators are the first companies to partner with Snapchat on SnapML. Snap has also announced some new AR features as part of the update to Lens Studio. 

The first is the creation of Local Lenses, a community-driven AR system that allows users to create a persistent shared AR world. Snapchat said that users “can step into augmented reality together to decorate nearby buildings with colorful paint and experience a new dimension of AR.

Snapchat Local Lenses
Source: Snapchat

Snap is also bringing the ability to scan for information straight from the camera. Users can identify 90% of all known plants thanks to PlantSnap, nearly 400 breeds of dogs with Dog Scanner and identify nutritional information from food labels thanks to Yuka (coming soon). 

Snapchat is also stepping into the voice game, with Voice Scan, which can offer lens results based on voice commands. 

Snap up the News

A new ‘Happening Now’ format will allow news organisations to create Snap stories for breaking news, available through the Discover tab. Snapchat has partnered with The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters, NBC News, ESPN, NowThis, E! News, Daily Mail, BuzzFeed News and more for this initiative. Snap’s editorial team will also curate publicly-shared snaps as part of the effort, to give users a chance to see events as they unfold. 

Users will also get a daily horoscope and personalised weather update featuring their Bitmoji. Happening Now is currently available only in the US, with international rollout expected from 2021. 

Snapchat Happening Now
Source: Snapchat

More Originals

Snap isn’t shying away from its originals, and has announced a bunch of new scripted and unscripted shows for its platform. The company also announced that, for the first time, users can become part of the show. Using Snap’s AR technology, the company aims to create more immersive experiences for users. For example, users can learn how to dance in ‘Move It’ from some of the world’s best dancers, with the motion tracking lens ensuring you are in step every time.

Snap announced 10 new shows including a comedy series with Kevin Hart that will be available. The company also said it was renewing some of its most popular shows including Dead of Night and Face Forward. The company is yet to announce when the new shows will debut. 

Developer Tools

Developer’s are getting new ways to integrate directly with Snapchat, a big focus for the company. The first tool is Camera Kit, that will allow developers to “bring Snapchat’s AR camera to their own apps.” As an example, Triller users will be able to create music videos with special Snapchat lenses. Other early partners include Nike, MLB and Squad.

Snap is also letting developers create ‘mini-apps’ for Snapchat through Snap Minis. Built using HTML, Minis will integrate straight into Snap’s chat window. Seven minis will be available to begin with, including Headspace, Movie Tickets by Atom and Tembo. CEO Evan Spiegel told The Verge that Minis would eventually help Snap migrate to e-commerce.  

Developers can also bring real-time information from their apps into Snapchat with Dynamic Lenses. Houseparty is one of the early adopters of this feature, allowing users to share popular Snapchat lenses on Houseparty.

Finally, Snap is creating a new gaming platform through Bitmoji for Games. It will allow Snapchatters to use their 3D bitmoji to play popular party games on any platform, including PC and console. Some games that are now available include Uno, Scrabble Go and Super Brawl Universe. Even without Bitmoji, users can now play several new games including Ready Set Golf!, Bumped Out and Friend Quizzes in the Snapchat app. 

New Design and Action Bar

Navigating Snapchat hasn’t always been easy, but the company is attempting to change that. The new navigation bar (called Action Bar), which rolled out in February to select users, is now available for all. The company also moved from its traditional three-pane design to a new five-pane one (the Snap Map and originals get their own tab now). The Discover tab has been renamed to Community, while Snap’s originals are housed in the new Discover tab. 

Useful Maps

The Snap Map is getting a huge update, to display basic information about local businesses. Like Google Maps, users will be able to view opening hours, address and reviews from TripAdvisor and Foursquare. And in the US, users will also be able to order food directly from Snapchat through Postmates, DoorDash and Uber Eats. 

Snapchat Maps
Source: Snapchat

Curated Public Snaps

‘Our Story’, Snapchat’s public snap system is getting an update that adds ‘Topics’. Users can add their snap to a topic by adding a ‘Topic Sticker’ or submitting it to the community topic. Users will then be able to browse all the snaps related to that topic, like ‘Oddly Satisfying’ or ‘Life Hacks’. It’s basically Snapchat’s take on Instagram’s Discover tab.

Reply to Stars

Users can now reply to their favourite snap stars, through the new Story Replies feature. Available as stickers, replies will bring interaction to celeb snaps for the first time. Snapchat said that it would automatically filter bullying and hate speech, so “snap Stars feel the love from their fans.”

Wellbeing Support

“We believe Snapchat can play a unique role in empowering friends to help each other through these difficult moments,” the company said as it rolled out new wellbeing tools. Users will be able to take advantage of Headspace’s popular content right in the Snapchat app for guided meditation. The company is also releasing a new comedy Original called “Coach Kev” with Kevin Hart. Through the series, Hart will share “positivity and wisdom with anyone aspiring to live their best life.”

Headspace Snap Mini
Source: Snapchat

Snapchat has also created new in-app reporting tools for users to help alert Snap when their friends are at risk of self-harm. “We’re now significantly improving that experience, by immediately showing Snapchatters how they can get connected with emergency services, message a trained counselor through Crisis Text Line, or talk live with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline,” the company said. 

Any developer can take advantage of Snap’s new tools through the Snap Kit. With these updates, it is clear Snapchat is gunning for Facebook Messenger, which was known for its deep integration with third-party apps and games. Whether it will succeed, only time will tell. 

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