Snapchat Stories may finally serve a purpose beyond shameless self-promotion and giving advertisers another route into your wallet. A new Snapchat feature, previewed at Lorde’s concert at Outside Lands this weekend, promises to turn the photo messaging app into a crowd-powered media tool. Dubbed Crowd Surf, it takes multiple snaps and then seamlessly combines them.
Quietly launched as part of the Our Stories section, Crowd Surf takes advantage of popular events by automatically curating content shared by multiple Snap users. In a way, it’s compatible to a multi-camera production, only each of the camera-people are Snap users, connected only by the fact that they’re at the same event. The “producer”, meanwhile, relies on some clever, homegrown tech.
Snapchat’s Research team built a new machine learning system in-house, the company confirmed to Mashable. By using the audio as a timecode, it can collate multiple short snaps into a longer piece of content. If there’s more than one snap at any one time, viewers can then switch perspectives manually.
Unlike the ill-fated Story Explorer, which Snapchat launched at the end of 2015 and then subsequently killed off, Crowd Surf promises to be much more precise. Where Story Explorer used day and location to combine events from multiple users, Crowd Surf’s ability to cut together location, time, and audio should leave viewers feeling much more like they’re in the moment.
According to the company, the new tool will only be rolled out for certain events. That makes sense, given it requires a certain number of Snapchat users all being not only present at the same time, but sharing public snaps too. The Lorde demo at Outside Lands didn’t end up covering an entire track, but as the feature becomes more commonly known the presumption is that more users will want to contribute.
Although it might seem like a gimmick, there are important potential consequences for the democratization of media along the way. Snapchat has been pushing the idea of itself as a broadcast company more than simply a person-to-person social network – one of its more recent updates made it easier for broadcasters to record and string multiple videos together, for instance – and this new feature certainly fits into that niche too.
You can try out Crowd Surf yourself while the Lorde story is still available. In the Snapchat app, swipe over to the Stories tab and then scroll down, below your friends’ Stories. You should see the Lorde option there; tapping the phone-twist icon in the lower right corner switches between whatever views are available at each point in the performance.