Snap Inc. wasn't about to let Facebook, which has lifted many of its augmented reality features, dominate the tech news cycle Tuesday.
Before the social networking giant kicked off its annual F8 conference for software developers, Snapchat's parent dropped some updates to its augmented-reality Lenses feature, which lets transform you and your friends into dogs, rabbits and dancing bumblebees.
Now Snapchat has a new option, New World Lenses, for adding three-dimensional augmented reality objects such as rainbows, flowers, clouds and words to jazz up scenes.
Using your mobile device's camera, you tap to add your 3-D image and then you can drag it to the right spot and adjust its size for your picture.
No wonder Snapchat chose Tuesday to update its Lenses with 3-D goodies. The popular messaging app has seen many of its features such as Stories hijacked by Facebook's Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook has made no secret of its strategy to give users more ways to express themselves with photos and videos and now augmented reality and CEO Mark Zuckerberg insinuated Tuesday it would soon leave Snapchat in the dust.
"Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to all our apps, I'm confident we'll push this forward," Zuckerberg said, giving Snapchat a little dig.
Current uses of photo enhancements on Snapchat and Instagram or games such as Pokémon Go represent "the beginning of a new platform" in AR, Zuckerberg said.
Observers of tech news on Twitter were divided over whether Snap Inc. or Facebook one-upped the other. But Austin, Tex. entrepreneur Aseem Ali tweeted he was "excited for the future of AR with the announcement of an AR platform by @facebook and the release of world lenses by @Snapchat!"
Snapchat, which rejected Facebook's $3 billion-plus acquisition offer in 2013, had to make a statement Tuesday, but still has its work cut out for it against Facebook and other tech giants, says Stephanie Llamas, vice president of research and strategy and head of VR/AR strategy at SuperData Research.
Snapchat had already been "pushed into the background" by the success of Pokémon Go, developed by Google, and "the mere whiff of Apple venturing into the AR space," she said. "That’s something Snapchat has needed to overcome and is trying to do that by building a really robust AR mechanism that surpasses what’s out there and what Facebook premiered today. It’s quite a few steps ahead of its competition and by beating Facebook to the punch today, it really showed they have the most to offer right now."