Snapchat is taking the goofy camera effects it made famous one step further by integrating them with Bitmoji, the virtual avatar app it acquired for roughly $100 million last year.
Starting Thursday, Snapchat users will be able to place customizable Bitmojis of themselves onto the real world. The 3D Bitmojis will be accessible through the app’s rear facing camera alongside popular effects like the dancing hot dog.
Snapchat parent Snap Inc. hopes that 3D Bitmojis will help cement the company as a leader in augmented reality (AR) technology, which overlays virtual objects onto the real world. Apple recently used Snapchat’s selfie effects to show off the AR capabilities of its new iPhone X.
More than a third of Snapchat’s 173 million daily active users interact with its AR camera filters, dubbed lenses, every day, according to the company. Snapchat first debuted its selfie lenses in 2015 through the acquisition of Ukrainian startup Looksery and added so-called World Lenses to the app’s rear-facing camera in April 2017.
Adding Bitmoji World Lenses comes after Snap started hiring performance artists and animators to “sculpt” 3D digital characters in December 2016.
“Bitmojis have an emotional, playful appeal,” a Snap spokesperson told Business Insider. “Our community often uses them daily on Snapchat and elsewhere as a personal extension of themselves.”
Since acquiring Bitmoji parent Bitstrips last year, Snap has continued to operate the division out its headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Snapchat requires its users download the standalone Bitmoji app to create custom avatars, which can then be linked with their Snapchat accounts.
Snap has yet to make money off Bitmoji, and it’s unclear if the self-described camera company intends to do so. Users could end up having to pay for certain Bitmoji outfits through in-app purchases, or Snap could allow brands to sponsor certain outfits and accessories. The company declined to comment on any Bitmoji-related monetization plans.