(Pocket-lint) - If you use Snapchat, you'll know that its built-in camera can be used to apply augmented-reality effects to your face and the world around you. In 2019, Snapchat updated its app with an impressive camera-reliant feature, called Scan, that allows you to quickly point your phones at objects to know more about them. Now, Snapchat's camera is getting a major update that moves Scan front and centre in the camera so all users can easily access it.
Here's what you need to know.
What's new with Snapchat's camera?
Scan becomes a visual search engine
Starting 26 August 2021, Snapchat's camera is giving Scan a more prominent place and updating it so it can identify a range of things, from clothes to dog breeds. Scan will also make it easier for you to find AR effects such as Lenses, as it can suggest ones to use based on what you're looking at and other criteria.
That essentially makes Snapchat's camera a visual search engine. It's honestly basically a copycat of Google Lens, which also allows you to scan items through your phone's camera to identify items. Google Lens is limited to Pixel phones, Android phones, and the Google mobile app. Let's also not forget Pinterest has its own virtual search feature, called Lens, that surfaces similar images (including things to buy) based on what you've scanned using the app's built-in camera.
So, how is Snapchat unique to these offerings? Well, the Snapchat app immediately opens to the camera - and now Scan - where nearly 300 million daily users can easily access either. Snap said 170 million people already use Scan at least once a month, and that was when it buried Scan behind a few extra taps.
What can you do with Scan now?
Leverages partners to identify more things
This latest version of Scan, which Snap previewed at its developer conference earlier this year, can now detect and identify dog breeds, plants, wine, cars, and food nutrition information - the majority of which is powered by other companies - such as Vivino, which indentifies wine, and soon, Allrecipes will use Scan to suggest recipes based on images of your food ingredient. Snap plans to keep add more capabilities over time, relying on third-party partners and what it develops.
Screenshop acquisition enables clothes shopping
Perhaps the coolest upgrade to Scan is a clothes-shopping recommendation engine built by Snap after it acquired Screenshop, an app that lets you upload screenshots of clothing to find similar items for sale. Scan can now do just that, and it will let you buy clothes you discover. Scan’s shopping feature is also coming to the Memories camera roll section of Snapchat, allowing you to find and shop for clothes based on what's already saved in photos or screenshots in the app.
Camera shortcuts come to Scan to surface Lenses
Scan is getting what Snap calls camera shortcuts. The idea is, if you point your camera at something, such as your dog, Lenses specifically designed to work with that dogs will be presented to you with a song clip and colour filter, all of which you can apply simultaneously. Snap is planning to bring camera shortcuts to its Spotlight feature, too, so a viewer of one video can launch into their camera and use that same combination of effects they just witnessed in the video.
The thing is, this camera shortcuts feature is currently limited to dogs, shots of the sky, human feet, and dancing. But Snap plans to expand the offerings available over time, with the idea that you will use Scan to discover AR lenses and other effects long-offered by Snapchat in different places of its app.
How to find Scan in Snapchat
As we mentioned earlier, Snapchat has been experimenting with its Scan visual search feature since 2019. But, until now, it required a few taps to find and use it - so, presumably, many people often overlooked it. With the update now rolling out, Scan will be visible whenever the Snapchat camera is open.
Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 27 August 2021.