Snapchat
Snapchat

Snapchat World Lenses Are the Next Step in Augmented Reality

Snapchat
Snapchat

Since it was founded in 2011, Snapchat has used cutting-edge technology to successfully set itself apart from other photo-sharing services. The app's latest feature, Snapchat World Lenses, integrates colorful, 3D objects into real-world scenes captured on your smartphone.

As The Verge reports, Snapchat World Lenses were introduced on Monday, April 18. This is the latest experiment with augmented reality we’ve seen from the mobile app. As Snapchat says in a statement:

"We launched Lenses over a year ago as a whole new way to express ourselves on Snapchat. Since then, we've become puppies, puked rainbows, face-swapped with our best friends—and begun to explore how Lenses can change the world around us.

Today, we’re adding new ways to use Lenses."

Unlike most of the app's high-tech filters, Snapchat World Lenses aren’t designed for faces. They’re meant to be plopped down anywhere in the space being recorded on your phone’s rear-facing camera. That’s where the augmented reality element comes in: The 3D objects behave as if they’re physically in front of you. Move your camera closer and the animation grows bigger; pull it away and the objects shrink, appearing more distant.

The introductory animations, which can be accessed through Snapchat’s lenses deck, include a cartoon rainbow, a crying cloud, sprouting flowers, and a colorful “OMG” written in bubble letters. The feature will be updated with new lenses on a daily basis. You can watch a demonstration of Snapchat World Lenses in the video below.

While the technology may look futuristic, it’s not exactly new. In 2015, Microsoft introduced the HoloLens, an augmented reality visor that allows wearers to view 3D versions of their favorite apps and games (like Minecraft) as part of the physical space around them. But with a $3000 price tag, the headset wasn’t the ideal vehicle for delivering augmented reality to the masses.

That distinction belongs to Pokemon Go. Last summer, the mobile game brought 3D characters into the real world by way of smartphone cameras. Since the world reached peak Pokemon Go mania shortly after its debut, no other 3D augmented reality app has come close to matching its popularity.

Now that Snapchat is embracing similar technology, users shouldn’t be surprised to see other social media sites launching their own versions of the 3D lenses. Facebook has been known to take direct inspiration from features that originated with Snapchat (like filters and stories), and we already know that Facebook has experimented with virtual reality in the past. Download or update Snapchat today to judge the potential impact of World Lenses for yourself.

[h/t The Verge]

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Sorry, Kids: Soda is Now Banned From Children's Menus in Baltimore
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iStock

The war on sugary drinks continues. Following several cities that have passed laws allowing them to collect substantial sales tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages, Baltimore is taking things a step further. A new ordinance that went into effect Wednesday will prohibit restaurants from offering soda on their kids’ menus.

Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner, told the Associated Press that the ordinance was enacted to “help families make the healthy choice the easy choice.” Instead of soda, eateries will be expected to offer milk, water, and 100 percent fruit juices.

If you’re wondering what will stop children from sipping soda ordered by an adult escort, the answer is—nothing. Business owners will not be expected to swat Pepsi out of a child’s hand. The effort is intended to get both parents and children thinking about healthier alternatives to sodas, which children consume with regularity. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 30 percent of kids aged 2 to 19 consumed two or more servings a day, which can contribute to type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities, and other adverse effects.

Businesses in violation of this kid-targeted soda prohibition will be fined $100. Baltimore joins seven cities in California and Lafayette, Colorado, which have similar laws on the books.

[h/t The Baltimore Sun]

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Air Quality in American National Parks and Big Cities Is Roughly the Same
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iStock

National parks usually have more vegetation, wildlife, and open spaces than urban areas, but the two don't look much different when it comes to air quality. As City Lab reports, a new study published in Science Advances found that U.S. national parks and the nation's largest cities have comparable ozone levels.

For their research, scientists from Iowa State University and Cornell University looked at air pollution data collected over 24 years from 33 national parks and the 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Their results show that average ozone concentrations were "statistically indistinguishable" between the two groups from 1990 to 2014.

On their own, the statistics look grim for America's protected areas, but they're actually a sign that environmental protection measures are working. Prior to the 1990s, major cities had higher ozone concentrations than national parks. At the start of the decade, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments in an effort to fight urban air pollution, and ozone levels have been declining ever since.

The average ozone in national parks did increase in the 1990s, but then in 1999 the EPA enacted the Regional Haze Rule, which specifically aims to improve air quality and visibility in national parks. Ozone levels in national parks are now back to the levels they were at in 1990.

Ground-level ozone doesn't just make America's national parks harder to see: It can also damage plants and make it difficult for human visitors to breathe. Vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are some of the biggest producers of the pollutant.

[h/t City Lab]

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