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Is Snapchat planning to build an AR device?

Speculation that the social media app Snapchat is planning a hardware launch increased Monday with the news that it had become a member of a Bluetooth industry group.

Snapchat, which allows users to send pictures and messages to friends, is listed as an adopter on the website of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).

Becoming a member of the SIG is a required step to build a product requiring Bluetooth technology licences and trademarks.

The Snapchat app is displayed on an Apple iPhone 5s.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Snapchat app is displayed on an Apple iPhone 5s.

The Financial Times reported that the only reason a company would join the SIG was in order to develop a device requiring wireless technology to connect to a smartphone or the internet.

Speculation that Snapchat may be planning a piece of hardware has been building for several months. CNET reported in March that Snapchat had hired several wearable technology experts, while in 2014, the company acquired Vergence Labs, a start-up which develops wearables similar to the Google Glass.

As opposed to virtual reality, which immerses a user in a computer generated environment, augmented reality overlays the real world with computer graphics and information. The best example of augmented reality is the Pokemon Go app, which made headlines over the summer.

A user playing "Pokemon GO" on a London street.
Olivia Harris | Getty Images
A user playing "Pokemon GO" on a London street.

Several virtual reality devices have already been released, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, but the market for augmented reality (AR) devices has developed more slowly.

Despite this, market analysts CCS Insight has forecast sales of about 200,000 units of AR technology in 2016, increasing to 7 million unit sales in 2020, with a market value of $3.8 billion.

"We expect augmented reality technology to evolve quickly and the experience to improve dramatically. It's little surprise that companies such as Microsoft and Google are placing such big bets in this area," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said in a statement last month

"The added dimension of the Pokemon Go craze has undoubtedly raised awareness of the potential for augmented reality. That can only be positive for the technology," he added.

Snapchat declined to comment on its future plans. Bluetooth was unavailable to comment.

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