Facebook is fighting off hackers trying to influence elections yet again, dealing with Wall Street having to adjust its expectations for the company after last week’s glum earnings forecast for the rest of the year and rolling out major new updates across its app empire. So the social media giant, needless to say, may have its hands a little full at the moment to dip into its playbook of familiar tricks to copy the latest thing Snapchat has brought forth.
That new thing? The ephemeral messaging app today is rolling out lenses that you have to speak to in order for them to animate.
Instead of touching these lenses or making a specific facial expression, you say one of a few basic prompts in English. For example, say the word “wow” and a cutesy bow materializes on your head. “Love,” and all of a sudden you hear Muzak.
The app has dabbled with sound-based lenses before, with an animal lens back in May that was triggered by sound. Lenses, of course, are one of Snapchat’s most identifiable features, something the company is trying to keep investing in and improving to get users to play with them more — which means those users have to actually stick around to do that.
Instagram, which supercharged its growth partly on the back of its Stories feature that was ripped off from Snapchat, has likewise gotten into similar AR face filters. This week, in fact, one of Snapchat’s former power users — Kylie Jenner — launched her own branded filer that lets users see what they’d look like wearing lipstick from Kylie’s cosmetics line.
Still, Snapchat’s lenses are still a bit more full-featured and fun. Face filters are also so integral to the Snapchat user experience that the company has also launched a service that lets anyone create a custom lens for the app. Snapchat’s “Official Creator Program” launched in May as a way to connect the company with people who want to create those lenses and give them support, among other things.
The new voice-activated lenses, meanwhile, are launching with around half a dozen in the carousel you see at the bottom of the app. Hopefully it can help the app hang on to users, because the numbers are certainly, well, lopsided.
Snapchat in the first quarter reported 191 million daily active users. Instagram, of course, has a total audience that’s multiples of that — and if you only look at Instagram Stories, even that is more than double Snapchat’s entire base, according to the latest figures.