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Snapchat Acquires 3D Mapping Company Pixel8Earth to Expand AR Capabilities

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Fresh off the back of its most recent earnings report, which showed strong growth in both users and revenue, Snapchat is now looking to maximize its investment in the next stage of interactivity, by acquiring 3D mapping platform Pixel8Earth, which will provide new capacity for Snap’s advancing AR capabilities.

Pixel8earth is a “crowdsourced and perpetually updating map” which merges both terrestrial and aerial data into a single model, facilitating the creation of 3D spatial overlays of landscapes and structures

As you can see from this example, after taking in a range of video inputs, the Pixel8Earth system can then stitch the various feeds into one single map.

This video provides a better overview of its application on external structures.

The tool essentially uses digital video content, captured by multiple sources, to build more complete perspectives of real-world scenes. And based on this, Snapchat will not only be able to facilitate the expansion of the Pixel8Earth project, through the camera within its own app, but it will also be able to use that mapping to expand on its AR tools, like its evolving digital art installations and its Landmarker Lenses.

This new form of digital interactivity, which exists only within Snapchat’s own AR realm, is already providing new powerful ways for Snapchatters to interact within the app.

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Take, for example, Snapchat’s City Painter‘ collaborative AR project, which is now active in Carnaby Street in London.

As you can see in the video, the project essentially enables users to interact with an AR overlay of a real-world location. Users can virtually paint whatever they like over the shops and streets, and each person’s contribution is then visible to any other Snapchatter who visits the location.

Thus far, Snapchat has only launched one City Painter activation, as it requires significant, detailed location mapping to work effectively. But the acquisition of Pixel8Earth could greatly expand its capacity on this front, which may facilitate a whole new world of interactive experiences – quite literally – for users of the app.

Of course, Snapchat likely also has other plans in store for these advanced mapping tools, including additional AR applications, interactive tools (like digital cartoons that respond to the environment, and are only visible through the Snap camera) and potentially, more data to be built into its evolving Spectacles AR project.

Snapchat still hasn’t officially confirmed that it’s developing a new, AR-enabled variation of its Spectacles smart glasses, but insiders have reported that work on the project is significantly advanced, at least in respect to testing early prototypes with development partners.

3D mapping could help Snap provide more accurate overlays for its eventual AR vision, which could help make Snap’s AR Spectacles more functional, and more useful in a wider range of situations.

We’ll have to wait and see where Snap goes with it, but it’s another acquisition for the growing app, as it continues to work towards the next stage of digital interactivity.

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Iran pop singer silenced, but his song remains a protest anthem

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Shervin Hajipour's song "Baraye" draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life

Shervin Hajipour’s song “Baraye” draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life – Copyright Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)/AFP –

David Vujanovic

Even though he has been silenced, Iranian pop singer Shirvin Hajipour’s impassioned song in support of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody remains an unofficial anthem of the movement.

The song “Baraye” notched up 40 million views on Instagram before it was deleted when Hajipour was arrested, but he has since been freed on bail and has distanced himself from politics, likely as a condition for his release.

Baraye, the Persian word “For” or “Because”, is composed of tweets about the protests and highlights longings people have for things lacking in sanctions-hit Iran, where many complain of hardship caused by economic mismanagement.

It also draws on everyday activities that have landed people in trouble with the authorities in the Islamic republic.

“For the sake of dancing in the streets; Because of the fear felt while kissing; For my sister, your sister, your sisters,” the song’s lyrics say.

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“Because of the embarrassment of an empty pocket; Because we are longing for a normal life… Because of this polluted air.”

Baraye has been heard played loudly at night from apartment blocks in Iran to show support for protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16, after the notorious morality police arrested her for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.

It was also sung with gusto by the Iranian diaspora at rallies in more than 150 cities around the world at the weekend.

In one clip shared by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, a group of schoolgirls without headscarves is seen singing Baraye in class with their backs to the camera.

The tune was removed from Hajipour’s Instagram account shortly after his arrest but is still widely available on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

– ‘Because of forced Instagram stories’ –

Hajipour’s lawyer Majid Kaveh said he was released on bail at noon on Tuesday.

The reformist Shargh newspaper said his family had been informed of his arrest in the northern city of Sari on Saturday, in a report that cited his sister Kamand Hajipour.

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She had said in an Instagram post that her parents had been informed of his arrest in a call from the city’s intelligence ministry offices.

Shortly after his release, Hajipour was back on Instagram, but this time to apologise and distance himself from politics.

“I’m here to say I’m okay,” he told his 1.9 million followers on the platform.

“But I’m sorry that some particular movements based outside of Iran — which I have had no relations with — made some improper political uses of this song.

“I would not swap this (country) for anywhere else and I will stay for my homeland, my flag, my people, and I will sing.

“I don’t want to be a plaything for those who do not think of me, you or this country,” he added.

In response to his post, many on Twitter suggested the line “Because of forced Instagram stories” should be added to the lyrics of the song.

Human rights groups including Article 19 have repeatedly called on Iran to end its use of forced confessions, which they say are false and extracted under duress or even torture.

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In one recent case, a young Iranian woman, Sepideh Rashno, disappeared after becoming involved in a dispute on a Tehran bus with another woman who accused her of removing her headscarf.

She was held by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and appeared on television in what activists said was a forced confession before being released on bail in late August.

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