Snapchat has secretly acquired a phone-based 3D capture company called Seene, possibly for a future full of three-dimensional or augmented reality snaps, reports TechCrunch. According to an article published last week, Snapchat actually bought the company "a couple of months ago" for a relatively low price, and it's bringing Seene employees to its headquarters in Los Angeles. Snapchat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While we don't know exactly what Snapchat might do with Seene, we've written about the company before. Seene's app, launched in 2013, lets users scan objects in three dimensions with an ordinary smartphone camera, rather than a special depth sensor like that of Google's Project Tango. Currently, its website advertises detailed facial scanning, reconstructing full scenes in 3D, and augmented reality — making virtual objects appear in the real world through a phone's camera. As TechCrunch points out, there are a number of ways Snapchat could integrate this tech into its own app. It could let users send 3D selfies, make swapping faces with someone else more eerily realistic, or add augmented reality versions of the overlays people can already put in their videos.
Ultimately, Seene's tech could play a role if Snapchat takes an interest in headset-based virtual or augmented reality, like HoloLens or Google's upcoming Daydream VR platform. (A company with a somewhat similar premise, called Sketchfab, started moving toward virtual reality last year.) In fact, Snapchat itself purchased a smart glasses company a couple of years ago. But since VR and AR are both a bit clunky and high-maintenance right now, it's more likely to show up as a novelty for the Snapchat we already know, at least in the short term.
Correction: Sketchfab ties into scanning tools, but does not include its own.