(Reuters) - Snap Inc, owner of photo messaging app Snapchat, launched a new division on Thursday that will help other companies build augmented reality features for their websites or apps.
The division called AR Enterprise Services (ARES) marks the first time Snap will sell to business customers its AR technology, which can enhance photos and videos of the real world with computerized images, said Jill Popelka, head of ARES, in an interview.
Advancing the field of AR has been a focus at Snap in recent years and it says over 250 million people engage with AR every day on Snapchat, which originally became popular among young users for photo filters that could add whimsical elements such as bunny ears.
"A number of companies have tried to leverage AR outside of their platform, but we've proven on our app what we can do," Popelka said. "Now we have a real commercial-grade solution."
The enterprise venture also comes as Snap is seeking to diversify its revenue beyond digital advertising, which currently comprises the vast majority of its revenue.
ARES' first product called Shopping Suite will provide tools for companies to build features that allow customers to virtually try-on clothes or view a product from all angles in 3D, which could help increase sales and reduce returns.
The pricing model for business customers will be "very flexible," Popelka said. Certain arrangements with clients could allow Snap to earn a cut of product sales driven by Snap's AR tools, she added.
Artificial intelligence is also helping advance Snap's AR capabilities. The company is using AI to take a two-dimensional image and make it appear 3D without the need to first build a 3D model. That has helped shave off 40 to 60 hours in the creation of high quality 3D images, which can now be done in as little as a few hours, Popelka said.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)