Snapchat expands into AI with ‘Dreams’ tool: Tech frontiers ‘are messy places,’ expert warns

Snapchat’s newest artificial intelligence (A.I.) tool is reaffirming to users that if you can dream it, you can do it.

“We’ll see if people think this is super fun and great and a rather light-hearted use of the technology. Or if people go: that’s weird or that’s creepy, or I don’t see any use for that,” Jessica Melugin, director of the Center for Technology & Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital. 

“If there’s anything beyond fun and silly and goofy to it,” she continued, “they’re about to find out.”

Last week, the social platform rolled out its new generative A.I.-powered feature called Dreams in Australia and New Zealand, giving users the ability to edit selfies and create “fantastical images that transform their persona into new identities,” according to a Snapchat statement given to Digital.


While the Dreams tool is reportedly still in a test-and-adjust phase and will become available globally “in the next few weeks,” the company said, it allows Snapchatters to edit up to eight pictures before requiring an in-app purchase.

“You’re sort of at the frontier here. You’re at the technological frontier, and the frontiers are messy places,” Melugin said of Dreams. “I don’t think that Snapchat Dreams spells the end of civilization as we know it; let me say that rather definitively. And there’s challenges, but that’s the case with all new technologies. There’s a learning curve, there’s challenges. There’s going to be hiccups.”

Melugin expressed she does see “real concerns” with generative A.I.’s impact on politics, specifically noting misinformation threats amid election season.

“With A.I. in elections, the concerns are more the quantity,” Melugin said. “You can generate misinformation a lot faster and a lot more cheaply than you would have been able to before.”

The tech expert predicted Snapchat Dreams may be primarily used by younger generations for what she called “goofy fun,” as opposed to malign intent.

“It’ll be plugging yourself into a renaissance scene or whatever you’re into. And I think for the most part, that remains harmless,” Melugin said. “It’s so hard to define A.I., exactly what it is, and it’s so many different things in so many different areas, and there’s been so much negative press about it and so much emphasis on the dangers as opposed to the possible benefits. People have this sort of knee-jerk negative reaction to it.”

But Melugin did note the possibility of defamation of name, image and likeness legal cases being brought forth once the feature allows generative A.I. editing of people other than yourself.

“Common law is going to have to catch up with this. This is new. There’s going to be cases brought and precedent set, and hopefully, common law reactions to that will be based on how the law’s worked in the past,” the tech expert said.

“What could be realistically mistaken? Is someone intending to harm someone or profit off them?” she added. “If something rises to the level of concern enough for Congress to deal with it, we’ll see what that might be. I don’t think we’re there yet.”


Snapchat has led the way in giving social media users access to A.I. capabilities, first releasing its free chatbot “My AI” worldwide in April. Notably, other competitors like Instagram, X, Facebook and TikTok have not given creators in-app A.I. tools to experiment with.

“If Snap doesn’t do it first, then Instagram’s going to figure out a way to do it or TikTok’s going to do it, and then everyone will really freak out. So, here we are. The genie has been let out of the bottle,” Melugin explained, “and it doesn’t mean we aren’t on a learning curve and it doesn’t mean there might be reasons for new laws or regulation down the road or new common law precedents.”

“We deal with problems as they come up. We try to anticipate the best we can and avoid them,” she continued. “But there has to be a bias towards innovation and progress because that’s what the lifeblood of our economy is, and it’s a quality of life question, too.”

The expert additionally pointed out that Snapchat is not wrapped up in any ongoing scrutiny from lawmakers in Washington.

“Snapchat is not under as much direct fire in Washington as a lot of the other ones are, right?” Melugin said. “They’re not the subject of major tech antitrust legislation. They’re not under investigation, that I’m aware of, by the FTC or DOJ, where some of these other companies are litigating as we speak.”


Snapchat has not immediately responded to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

And for parents and young Snapchatters who are curious and excited about the Dreams feature, Melugin put emphasis on doing your own research before using it.

“If you can find things that are a creative outlet that bring you joy, let’s do it,” the tech expert said. “If you talk to especially young people on social media, again, there can be downsides to it, but there can also be communities of people they wouldn’t have access to otherwise that have been great comforts to them and inspiration to them. There’s so much good that happens online, too.”


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