The company hinted to the surprise launch by putting up a countdown clock a day earlier on their website. The pieces of art featured in the release were created by American sculptor Jeff Koons. His "Balloon Dog" and "Rabbit," which are part of the collection at the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles, can now be seen virtually, the former in Chicago and the latter in New York and London. Other works are available to view via Snapchat in cities across the world, including Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.
The pieces are only accessible at specific locations within major cities, such as Millennium Park in Chicago, Hyde Park in London and the Venice Boardwalk in Los Angeles. The Venice Boardwalk is "displaying" Koons' sculpture "Play-Doh."
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel spoke about the new feature in a rare appearance at Vanity Fair's New Technology Summit in Beverly Hills. The 27-year-old entrepreneur said that augmented reality is just another way to experience the app. "You can layer your experience on top of what you see, there's not one way to experience Snapchat."
He said that smartphones have allowed a shift from traditional, text-based information, to digital content.
"We try to empower people to express themselves. One of the reasons we use the camera is because cameras inspire curiosity," he said. "You open into your own experience and they kind of encourage you to look around." Spiegel believes the new lenses will encourage anyone, anywhere, to be creative.
Koons' pieces are part of Snapchat's first ever location-specific Lens. To activate them, the viewer must be within 1,000 feet of a location and tap the screen to open Snapchat's Lenses, at which point the artwork will appear in the app, seemingly three stories tall. The vivid colors of the sculpture on display along the Venice Boardwalk, "Play-Doh," is an immediate eye catcher to those seeking to find the work. Once the sculpture comes into view, it is immersive. Viewers can walk around the vicinity of the piece and get a virtual 360-perspective on the display.
In the past, Snapchat pushed the boundaries of immersive mobile sharing with the release of Spectacles, an app-specific video camera attached to a pair of sunglasses. In September, Snapchat released a feature that lets users integrate their Bitmoji avatar into moving videos. The company first began to experiment with augmented reality in when it released a 3D dancing hot dog animation that could be placed into users' videos.