Snapchat adds voice commands so you don't have to search for the right filter

The app’s camera is getting more powerful.


One of Snapchat’s biggest strengths is its augmented reality platform. The company has credited the popularity of its lenses with helping drive much of the app’s recent growth and the company has a large and dedicated group of “lens creators” who create AR effects for the app.

Now those effects are going to be much easier to find and try out: Snapchat is introducing a new “voice scan” feature that allows users to search for new lenses with voice commands. With the new feature, users can say things like “hey Snapchat, turn my hair pink,” or “hey Snapchat, make me a potato,” and the app will automatically bring up a corresponding lens. Voice scan is beginning to roll out to the app now.

The feature is powered by SoundHound, which makes its own voice-enabled assistant, and draws on Snapchat’s catalog of user-created AR effects and those created in-house at Snap. The feature can be used for selfie effects, as well as outward-facing “world lenses.” It’s also not difficult to imagine that voice-powered features could one day play a significant role in Spectacles, the company’s camera-enabled glasses.

Snapchat's camera can identify dog breeds.

For now, though, the company is billing voice scan as an extension of Snapchat’s existing “scan” abilities: Google Lens-like features that allow users to search their surroundings using the in-app camera. And Snapchat is also adding new visual search features to its lineup: the ability to identify dog breeds (via a partnership with Dog Scanner) and different types of plants (via Plant Scanner). “Later this year” Snapchat will also add a food scanning function, which will identify packaged foods and display nutrition information.

While visual search is somewhat hidden in the app  — users need to press and hold on the camera screen to start “scanning” — it could have big implications for Snap in the future. In addition to Spectacles, where “point and search” functionality could be incredibly useful, the company also plans to make the technology available to brands which could give Snap yet another way to monetize its camera platform.