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Some people take their pets everywhere with them. Now Snapchat Plus members can even bring them along virtually — as Bitmoji.

The latest update, introduced this week, uses artificial intelligence to turn a photo of little Fifi or Fido into a graphic — actually, a range of avatars that owners can choose from — and place it in the Snap Map. Once inside the platform’s location-sharing visualization tool, the furry friend can follow the user’s own Bitmoji around.

Pets aren’t new to the platform, but the customization is. Previously, there was only a limited selection of preset options, and no way to pick breeds.

Clearly this is one of AI’s more adorable capabilities. The perk arrives for Snapchat Plus subscribers only right now, since they get early access to new features. But it’s likely to open up at some point. There’s great motivation for Snap to do it, after all.

Previous options for pet Bitmoji were limited.

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Pets are a gateway to a huge business, with the pet accessories market alone valued at $32.7 billion in 2022, and expected to hit $48.56 billion by 2028. Add pet grooming products to the mix, and the market, valued at $68.31 billion in 2022, is projected to hit $116.23 billion by 2030.

The thought of a Prada dog brush may be taking things too far. Then again, the luxury brand already sells dog bibs — aka, a $460 nylon pet collar — among other accessories. Plenty of fashion brands have also gotten into pet lines, including Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Hugo Boss, Miu Miu, True Religion, Versace and others, from H&M to Tommy Hilfiger.

Users’ pet data — from type of animal to particular breeds, and what’s dominates particular locations — could also be rather valuable. Of course, the jury is out on whether Snap will ultimately use this information for ads. What’s clear, however, is that the company needs as much revenue as it can get these days.

From the pet lines of Prada, above, and Louis Vuitton, below.

Snap has been in a major cash crunch, which prompted moves, like the closure of its Augmented Reality for Enterprise (ARES) unit mere months after it opened. The strategy worked. Snap revenue over the last three months of 2023 grew 5 percent over the same timeframe the year before, meeting or exceeding expectations. Too bad that, next to the likes of Google and Meta’s double-digit growth, it looked measly — and it didn’t help that 10 percent of Snap’s staff just got pink slips.

Last month, the app developer saw a nauseating plummet in its stock: Right after the earnings numbers came out, shares fell as much as 34.5 percent.

The hustle at Snapchat is real and ongoing. Even after the enormous flack over My AI, a ChatGPT-driven chatbot released last year, it still believes deeply in artificial intelligence. It’s the way forward, chief executive officer Evan Spiegel has said, while his platform continues to develop and release AI features. That now includes generating virtual versions of users’ fur babies. Surely some executives are wondering how to leverage that data for business purposes.

According to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey Statistics, more than 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet, and there are more than 7 million subscribers of Snapchat Plus, which is quite a healthy-looking data set.

Bitmoji for pets could have the makings for big business in a wee package, but it’s not the only front that Snap is pushing on. While ARES is dead, AR for businesses does live on. The newly introduced Sponsored AR Filters for Advertisers offers placements that, according to the company, give brands a way to get in on viral or cultural moments.

Franklin Park Conservatory, promoting its local Orchids exhibit (left), and a countdown to Super Bowl LVIII (right)

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“This ad placement occurs after Snapchatters capture their content with the Snapchat Camera, accessible by swiping to the post-capture Filter Carousel,” it explained. “With over 5 billion Snaps created every day, brands can now join in on even more shareable moments and truly own the Snapchat Camera experience from end to end.”

Beyond subscribers and advertisers, the app also has a few updates for garden-variety Snapchatters, including easier, template-based clip-editing, a faster way to edit and post content using swipe gestures and longer Stories and Spotlight videos of three minutes for in-app recordings or five minutes for uploads — which is more than enough time to show off little Fifi in her Louis Vuitton dog collar.



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