Snap is most known for its addictive social network, which features brief messages and astonishing augmented reality filters. Snap, which bills itself as a “camera company,” does, however, release new gear now and again. Things start to get strange. It’s one of those occasions.
Snap unveiled a flying camera, a type of device frequently referred to as a drone, today at its annual Partner Summit. Pixy, a flat, yellow plastic copter, is designed to connect with the Snapchat app, lift from its owner’s palm, capture a photo or video, and then fly back down to the palm, most likely during Coachella. The video is then sent wirelessly to Memories through the Snapchat app, where it may be augmented with Snap’s unique AR filters and video effects.
The teeny-tiny drone will set you back $230. For an additional $20, you can get a Pixy kit with two extra batteries. Because a fully charged Pixy can fly between five and eight short flight routes before needing to be recharged, you’ll need the extra batteries. (Large batteries aren’t viable in a drone that weighs less than a pound.)
Snap understands that Pixy will appeal to a certain type of Snap user, and it’s selling a limited number of devices in the US and France “while supplies last.” Bobby Murphy, Snap’s co-founder and technology head, wouldn’t specify how many he intends to sell in an interview with WIRED about the drone and the company’s bigger AR objectives, but he did state that the company’s goal is to “build something that truly connects with our community.” This looks to be in line with prior hardware attempts by the corporation. Snap is very good at generating buzz around its hardware business, not necessarily revenue from it, as evidenced by its Spectacles camera glasses, which were initially only available through a Snap-branded vending machine when they launched in 2016, and the AR glasses it showed off last spring, which were only available to developers.
That’s not to say Snap’s hardware isn’t cutting-edge. Snap introduced video-capture eyewear years before Meta, which was far more impactful. Last year’s AR-capable Spectacles gave you a preview of Snap’s immersive and engaging AR lenses, as they’re known. Pixy, the new drone, uses computer vision and object recognition technology to recognise people’s faces and body parts, allowing it to follow or “orbit” Pixy users, record the best possible photo or video clip, and then land in one’s palm.
“We’re excited to see Pixy evolve and discover all the numerous ways that a computer-vision-driven flying camera may provide value,” Murphy adds.
Nonetheless, during our chat with Murphy and today’s virtual partner conference, Snap made it plain that its primary focus is on its augmented reality technology. Snap is unique in the social media environment for several reasons, one of which being its augmented reality technology. (It’s also worth mentioning that Snap has much more daily active users than Twitter, which has absorbed all of the attention in the press this week as a result of Elon Musk’s purchase and anticipated privatization of Twitter.)
Today at Snap’s developer event, the company unveiled something dubbed Lens Cloud. This is a Snap-hosted backend service that allows app developers to create new types of augmented reality materials and execute them more smoothly and fast from within Snapchat. Previously, creating a multi-user game or employing location-based anchoring required an app developer to essentially construct their app. Snap intends to provide the hosting solution for this via Lens Cloud.
There are also new AR shopping templates that allow companies to input current photographs from their websites and utilise Snap’s technology to turn the images into AR shopping displays. Snap is also collaborating with Live Nation to create concert-specific Lenses for live events because we can’t get enough of our phone displays, even while we’re out in the real world.