Back in June, at its annual partner summit, Snapchat announced some coming additions for its Snap Camera, including the ability to identify plants, dog breeds and get additional product information, like nutrition data, by simply 'scanning' a dog/plant/product within its camera function.
As you can see in this example, when you hold your finger on the screen when viewing a barcode for certain products, you'll now get a new listing of nutrition information for that item.
For wine, you even get review data:
The additional product data is facilitated through connection with third party apps - Yuka and Vivino in these examples (you can see the app branding at the top of each listing). That provides Snap with a range of scan options, based on established databases, which will mean that users can scan a range of products to get additional insight and data.
Snapchat added its dog breed scanner back in June, while users have long been able to identify music (via Shazam) and products (via Amazon) within the tool. The new additions take this capacity even further, and align with Snap's wider effort to add more utility - while Snap has also partnered with McDonald's and Coca Cola on scannable promotions based on their logos.
Snapchat's actually been working on making image recognition a bigger element in the app for some time. Back in 2015, the company filed a patent which included an expanded summary of what may be possible through its visual recognition tools:
"For example, a photograph including an object recognized as a restaurant may result in the user being presented with photo filters that overlay a menu of the restaurant on the photograph. Or a photograph including an object recognized as a food type may result in the user being presented with photo filters that let the user view information e.g., calories, fat content, cost or other information associated with the food type."
In addition to providing contextual info, such process could also enable businesses to offer discounts and promotions based on the content of an image. For example, in the below patent image, a person who's taken a Snap of a cup of coffee is being offered a discount coupon based on the visual content of that snap.
These new additions are another step in that direction, while they also set the scene for the next stage of AR development, where users would be able to conduct similar 'scans' via AR-enabled glasses.
Snapchat would love to advance its Spectacles product into a fully functional AR device, but with Facebook racing to bring its own AR glasses to market, it could be a tough ask for Snap to compete. But maybe, if Snapchat can build more visual elements like this, it could become a perfect partner for another company that's also developing AR glasses.
Like, say, Apple?
The technological advances required may make it impossible for Snapchat to builds its own AR glasses independently, but its tools could end up being a great addition for a potential Snap/Apple partnership, which could still see a version of Spectacles become AR-enabled in time to compete with Facebook's device.
That's the next stage for this technology, so while this is a handy addition now, it could be a far more significant development moving forward.