Workers around the world are suddenly confined to their homes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Some are doing their best to keep things interesting while telecommuting.
Snap Inc.’s Snapchat has seen a 10-fold surge in downloads since the beginning of the month of a tool that makes video calls and conferences on services like Zoom and Google Hangouts a bit more lighthearted. The tool, called Snap Camera, allows people to overlay their faces with an augmented reality filter, turning them into a talking toilet paper roll or slice of pizza—or evening out skin tone for those who would prefer not to apply makeup while working at home.
The service includes thousands of filter options and so-called lenses, some created by artists and others by Santa Monica, California-based Snap Inc. When the AR tool launched in October 2018, the mobile app maker thought it would likely be most popular among gamers who were broadcasting their conquests on Twitch, the video-streaming app owned by Amazon. Now, Snap Camera could help the company expand beyond its dedicated teenage fan base and into the corporate crowd.
The spike in downloads gives some indication of how popular video chat services are becoming, as more state and local governments advise citizens to shelter in place to avoid contracting COVID-19. People are turning to corporate chat services not just for work meetings, but to have virtual happy hours with friends, or to connect with family members when an in-person meeting would be too risky.
Facebook said this week that in Italy, it has seen more than twice as much video-chatting activity on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as it did a year earlier. The social media giant says it expects similar trends around the world, as more countries go into lockdown.