Snapchat got closer to turning its camera into a full-fledged visual search engine on Thursday by putting its Scan feature front and center.
Launched two years ago, Scananalyzes what the camera sees and suggests actions.
For example, scanning a person’s body will pull up suggestions for full-body lenses. Through app partnerships, scanning a plant or a bottle of wine will display details about the object. As of Thursday, you can also get shoppable search results for clothing.
Snapchat has been steadily increasing its Scan capabilities, but you sort of had to already know about them to access the feature. Similar to how users had to activate face lenses, scanning required pressing and holding on the object in the camera screen. Now Snapchat is putting the Scan button right underneath the camera button.
When you Scan, you’ll be able to pull up a menu from the bottom of the screen. Say you’re scanning a dog: You’ll see suggested ways to play with your photo or image in AR, find options to get more information about the dog, and see other things you can do with Scan.
The first menu result is “shortcuts,” a new feature that takes users to a screen with multiple lens and multimedia options. When scanning a dog, a shortcut lets you turn your dog into a cartoon through a combination of lenses and effects. While shortcuts contain multiple AR effects, the Scan menu also features suggested lenses based on what your camera is looking at.
Next, the Scan menu shows actions you can take to identify the object. Snap has partnered with a variety of identification apps, such as PlantSnap, Shazam, and, yes, Dog Scanner, that show information about what you’re focusing your camera on (or what song you’re hearing). These app integrations won’t surface unless the object fits into one of those categories, and Snapchat has continued adding partnerships over the years.
The identifications aren’t always accurate: Dog Scanner thinks my 100 percent mutt is a Shiba Inu, and the product scanner got no results when I pointed it at a common bottle of an over-the-counter pain killer.
Finally, there’s a menu section to “Discover more with Scan,” which lists other things you can do with Scan, including “identify a product.” Soon, Snap says users will be able to scan photos from the camera roll just as they would from the camera’s live view.
Snapchat gives me a bunch of options when I “scan” my dog.
Credit: screenshot: Snapchat
A menu of capabilities in Scan.
Credit: screenshot: snapchat
It’s easy to see how Snap could monetize Scan. Like Google does, why not let brands pay to prominently surface (ad-labeled) visual search results? What if Snap eventually takes a cut of Snap-enabled purchases? Snap already has sponsored lenses: Why not feature them in Scan results?
Scan’s potential makes it ripe for other platforms to copy.
Instagram feebly tried to imitate the earliest iteration of Snap’s Scan, called Snapcodes. They are scannable QR codes that take users to a Snapchat profile or external website. Instagram’s version is Nametags, which link to Instagram’s profiles.
While Instagramdoesn’t have the best track record of keeping up with Snap’s AR innovations, we’re sure it’s at least looking over Snapchat’s shoulder.