What clearly excites Murphy, who gives relatively few interviews, is Snapchat’s rapidly growing augmented reality work. Thanks to Snapchat’s camera, users can transform into a horse, a nonna or a fish. Popular landmarks can come to life, some in a bewildering style reminiscent of the 2010 move Creation. Others show more about the historical figures they commemorate. Murphy’s favorite is a wall of memories at Cindarella Castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Florida, where visitors can submit a photo to an ever-expanding mural visible via an app. “It’s just a fantastic demonstration of our location technology and a great way for all park visitors to connect,” he says. It has to be the technology that Murphy finds the most appealing because he hasn’t come to see it in person yet.
These features are undeniably fun, although some focus directly on physical attractiveness, making a user more square-jawed, for example. Paired with Snapchat’s Discover tab, which is filled with clickbait models and headlines like “This Kiss Challenge is going crazy viral!”, it’s the kind of content that could spark parental anxiety among care-conscious teens. body. Some are from independent publishers that Snapchat doesn’t pre-moderate; other posts are from influencers he verifies. All content is checked against company policies once it goes live, Snapchat says, to make sure none is hateful or harmful.
There’s another type of augmented reality technology that Snapchat is betting on: virtual clothing and shoe try-ons. It works quite well, with The Sydney Morning Herald and age wearing a virtual North Face jacket and Louis Vuitton sunglasses. The advantage is that you can see how they look at you. The disadvantage is that you are not as beautiful as the model wearing the items in the store photos, and the fitting is sometimes a little off. The idea is that eventually users will be able to browse a slew of clothes directly through Snapchat and shop quickly.
In some ways, Snapchat’s focus on online testing of real-world stuff is the opposite of what other social media companies, such as Facebook owner Meta, do. Meta sees the metaverse, an ill-defined concept that essentially refers to the idea of fully virtual simulated environments, as the future of its $550 billion company.
Murphy doesn’t directly mention Meta, but clearly has some skepticism about the relative promise of the Metaverse. “We see augmented reality as a much bigger opportunity than the metaverse,” Murphy says. The reason is that it allows for greater interaction with the real world.
Consider, for example, a construction company meeting where you can see your real colleagues through special glasses, but also an augmented reality version of the bridge project you are building. This clearly sounds more compelling than a fully virtual tour of a site.
Murphy is more positive about non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. They are signifiers of ownership of some form of digital asset, such as a digital artwork, held on a blockchain. So far, many NFT investments have proven to be speculative, with values rising and falling because they are not tied to something of inherent value. Snapchat seems like the best place to change that, as it’s not hard to imagine people paying to incorporate art, filters, or augmented reality effects into their snaps (though it can be accomplished without NFT).
“The concept of NFTs is certainly very interesting,” says Murphy. “Insofar as it becomes a format that makes it possible to remunerate digital assets. And I think you’re absolutely right that there’s potential in augmented reality. So yeah, that’s an area we’re starting to explore a bit.
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