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Snapchat Wants to Bring Art to Life, or at Least to Augmented Reality

Okay, so Snap accidentally leaked its own announcement. But the company still managed to pop the already-outed news Tuesday at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles, where CEO Evan Spiegel spoke. Here it is: The company is launching a new initiative that uses Snap “lenses” (a.k.a. filters) to bring art installations to life. Or at least to augmented reality.

The launch, a partnership with artist Jeff Koons (known for his takes on everyday objects) uses the Snapchat camera to “experience” virtual versions of Koons’ art installations around the globe. Here’s how it works: Users need to be within about 300 meters of each exhibit in order to unlock each new “lens.” (This is a bit like the geo-location used in once-popular game Pokemon Go!) Once in the area, Snapchatters then simply tap on their smartphone’s camera screen and can view the virtual art work around them. (The installations appear to be about three stories tall, so you can’t miss them.) They can also “Snap” it and share, if they wish. Snap says the exhibits will be landing in major parks and landmarks in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Australia, and Brazil beginning today. Five locations are already live, including a virtual version of Koons’ “Balloon Dog” in Los Angeles.

“Cameras inspire curiosity,” Spiegel told the audience. “They encourage you to look around.”

The 27-year-old CEO also answered a series of wide-ranging questions during the on-stage interview. Here is a sampling of some of his other quotes:

  • When asked if Snap went public too soon, Spiegel said he has no regrets: “Going public was really the right thing for the company and the right thing at the time.” (Snap’s shares got pummeled in the months after going public.)
  • That said, the CEO admitted that he underestimated how “much more important” communication would become. “Instead of 10 investors you have 10,000,” said Spiegel. “And you really need to explain how your business works. We’ve been learning how to best communicate the Snap story.”
  • Spiegel also said that, contrary to popular opinion, Snapchat’s users aren’t all young: Half of them are “over the age of 25.” This got a laugh from many in the audience.
  • Lastly, when asked whether Facebook and Google should hire more human editors to combat fake news and ads, Spiegel evaded the question. (Unlike the other social media services, Snapchat hasn’t had a big issue with fake news, at least partly because it doesn’t just rely on algorithms to curate selected “Snaps.”)