Snapchat, the image-messaging service with 173 million users worldwide, added a feature called "Crowd Surf" that combines users' videos of a live event based on their audio track to give an almost seamless look from multiple viewpoints, Mashable reported. Snapchat posts the videos in Our Stories, a section of the mobile app that collects pictures and videos submitted by users at the same location.
Snapchat's research team developed Crowd Surf, which is powered by machine learning technology, to maintain the continuity of the audio throughout the different videos. Snapchat showed how Crowd Surf works at live events with footage of a concert by Lorde, the Grammy-winning singer. The feature is available at select events, a Snap spokesperson told Mashable.
In related Snap news, Pokemon finally made its debut on Snapchat with a filter that lets users add Pikachu's yellow ears, nose and dotted cheeks to their selfies, The Verge reported. Pokemon Co. said the character is only available for a limited time, however.
Crowd Surf is a fun way for users to experience a concert or speech they can't actually attend, although the technology depends on the participation of multiple people recording the same event to provide enough footage to string together in a sequence. It also points to Snap's growing focus on location data and tying its digital offerings to the real world.
The need for multiple viewpoints may encourage more Snapchat users to try out the Stories feature and spend more time watching in-app videos, while advertisers are more likely to reach Snapchat users who are engaged with Stories. Crowd Surf combines several features that Snapchat used to provide separately. Its Story Explorer, which was removed in November, let Snapchatters see more images of the same moment. Story Explorer linked images from the same location and time but didn't detect audio cues. Snapchat posts curated Stories that are not only available on its Discover platform, but also can be sorted by topic and by location in Snap Maps.
The Pokemon integration, for its part, points to how major brands and media properties are still interested in using Snapchat to reach a young audience even as its parent company Snap Inc. receives heavy criticism from investors for failure to hit growth targets. Pokemon continues to be a cultural phenomenon, both with apps like the AR-powered game Pokemon Go and now the Pikachu Snapchat filter, which will likely prove to be a hit.
Snap is under pressure to boost ad sales after reporting disappointing Q2 results last week. The company underscored the strength of its programmatic and self-serve ad options during a conference call with analysts to discuss the financial results. Snap said 60% of Snap Ads impressions were delivered programmatically in Q2, more than 2x from the previous quarter.
User numbers suggest that highly coveted younger consumers are spending more time on Snapchat than on Instagram. Snap reported that users under 25 spent more than 40 minutes a day on Snapchat compared with 30 minutes for Instagram, TechCrunch reported.