Snapchat appears to be working on a new ad product that would use image recognition to pick out real-world objects in user’s snaps in order to serve them related filters, ads, and coupons.
A patent published by the United States Patent and Trademark office on Thursday and first filed in January 2015 (you can read it in full below) details how the system would work.
A person taking a photo of The Empire State building, for example, could be served a fun filter of King Kong that they could apply to their snap.
In the patent application, Snapchat details how someone taking a photo of the south side of the building could be served a filter of King Kong’s back, while someone over on the north face of the building “might see King Kong’s face looking at you.” The patent says the filter could include audio and visual effects content, meaning the filters could be animated or play a theme tune.
Snapchat is also thinking of a way to monetise the technology. As this diagram shows, a person who has just taken a snap of a cup of coffee could be served a coupon to redeem in-store.
Meanwhile, a photo containing an object recognised as within a restaurant could trigger filters of the restaurant’s menu. A snap of a certain food type could throw up filters with calorie information. Restaurants could even launch a Snapchat game, where users could snap as many different menu items or locations as they can, in order to be served filters with “celebratory graphics” and awards.
The patent shows how companies could bid against different types of objects, much like they bid against keywords in search advertising. The ad slot — the filter — ends up going to the highest bidder. The patent also suggests that the platform could hook up to an API (application program interface) server, so advertisers could potentially use the third-party software they use to buy ads elsewhere on the web to buy this sort of advertising too.
Right now Snapchat already offers “geofilters,” which are overlays users can apply to their snaps that change depending on their landmark, area, or event taking place where they are located at the time. The artwork for these filters can be submitted for free by users, but businesses and individuals can also purchase on-demand geofilters, which can include their brands and trademarks, too.
But these kind of image-recognition filters take the idea to the next level. The patent suggests that Snapchat may be working on some sophisticated image recognition technology in order to make this possible.
It also suggests that, much like it has done with its popular Sponsored Lenses product, Snapchat is looking to diversify its revenue model with ad products that are unique to the app and not like anything else on the market.
As always with patent filings, it’s worth bearing in mind that companies file them all the time and many of these ideas never come to fruition.
Snapchat declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.
Here is the patent document in full:
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