Snapchat Going After Apple, Facebook, and Google with Augmented Reality Hardware Plans

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is one of a few major tech firms that will be watching messaging giant Snapchat over the next several months.

That’s because Snapchat is reportedly delving into the hardware business.

Not just any hardware business, but the red-hot augmented reality (AR) arena. Based on Snapchat’s joining a Bluetooth industry group, along with a recent acquisition of a headset maker, it’s becoming clear that the company is bent on releasing some form of AR hardware.

From the Financial Times:

Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have all recently expressed interest in augmented reality, which overlays virtual objects on top of real-world images. Snapchat already employs similar technology in its app’s filters or “lenses”, which customise users’ selfies with playful animations.

The messaging service, which now has 150m daily active users, has expanded far beyond its original disappearing messages, becoming a platform for live events and professional publishers, as well as chatting with friends.

Snapchat’s 150 million daily users are attracted to its existing AR options, which to this point have only included filters for photos and videos that users can share across Snapchat and other platforms. Its ambitions in the space are clearly growing much larger now.

Privately-held Snapchat is valued around $15 billion. The well-funded startup represents a big potential risk to well-entrenched tech plays that have AR aspirations, like Apple, Google, and Facebook — not just on the AR side, but also in messaging, social media, and perhaps most importantly, competing for the same ad dollars that those firms count on.