Snap’s Divisive AI Feature Follows a History of Shelved Tech Bets

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Snap’s Divisive AI Feature Follows a History of Shelved Tech Bets
Evan Xie

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Snap Inc.’s new My AI feature that lets users chat with an AI powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology is gaining steam. After initially releasing the feature to some three million paid Snapchat+ subscribers, the Santa Monica-based social tech company decided to open it to all its users for free last week.

While it’s a bit early to tell how many people are actually using the AI chatbot for texting and images, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel implied at Snap’s partner summit last week that it’s accelerated demand for the $3.99 monthly service. Spiegel told Time, “we definitely saw some nice momentum with My AI.”

Snap spokesperson Liz Markman told dot.LA, “as we’ve been rolling out My AI, the vast majority of people with early access have been enjoying playing with it — sending millions of chat messages per day to learn more about movies, sports, pets, and the world around them.” Markman added that Snap plans to use preliminary feedback on My AI to “continue improving” the feature and noted that, “as with all AI chatbots, My AI can occasionally give inaccurate responses - including those that sound plausible but are impossible or unrelated to the given context.”

But not everyone is thrilled about My AI. This week the Snapchat app got a slew of one-star reviews since the My AI launch, with many users annoyed that the AI showed up in their chat tab unannounced and couldn’t be blocked or removed without paying for Snapchat+ to hide it.

That said, the early traction to My AI, and by extension the Snapchat+ subscription, is clearly encouraging to Spiegel. And for a company that’s still not profitable, having a new tool that’s going to drive people to the app and boost user count is key.

But in the past, Spiegel and Snap’s bets on technology haven’t always panned out. Let’s take a look at some of the company’s other ventures prior to My AI, and how they fared.

Apps and Games

Snap first got into gaming in April 2019 with Snap Games, and really accelerated its gaming programming during the coronavirus pandemic, with the goal of attracting more users to the app. The plan was to turn Snapchat into a mobile gaming powerhouse; both producing its own games and acting as a publisher for other studios’ content.

Initially, there was quite a demand for Snap’s games. In June 2020 the company said it had 100 million players since its launch.

But by February 2023, Snap abruptly shut down its gaming division in a cost-cutting bid. The company said in response to a disgruntled user’s tweet two months ago, “we'll be bringing more focus to other Snapchat products and features that will be beneficial to creators and content viewers.”


The camera drone was announced last April and was supposed to be a compact flying device that can take off and land from a user’s hand. While in the air, it could film footage and transmit it back to the Snapchat app to share. Snap underestimated demand for Pixy, however, which led to months-long shipping delays.

At the time, drone footage was all the rage and Snap wanted to prove it could develop a reliable flying craft that could entertain camera enthusiasts while also showing off its technical prowess. But within four months it was shelved, with Spiegel telling staff in August 2022 to stop development.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the cancellation, said Snap will continue to sell the existing iterations of Pixy for $230, but won’t make any new ones. Though it’s possible down the line Spiegel will revive the drone: He told The Verge last year, “maybe we would make more with version two if people love the original product.”


First introduced in 2016, Snap’s camera glasses were designed to be augmented reality shades that can capture photos and videos of augmented reality interactions around you and beam it back to the Snapchat app. Spiegel hoped that AR specs would be the fashion of the future, but they still haven’t hit the mainstream.

The glasses are still sold today – the Spectacles 3 that launched in 2019 retails for $380. But the fourth generation of the product, announced in May 2021, still isn’t available to consumers. Instead, as the Verge reported, the augmented reality glasses are being given to an uncertain number of creators who applied for access online.

Snap Lab, the division of the company making Spectacles, is quite secretive about their progress. What we do know is the people allowed to use the current-gen Spectacles have created some pretty cool stuff, including a virtual Super Mario Bros. course. According to Markman, Snap is still “fully committed to Spectacles and [are] narrowing our investment scope to focus on highly differentiated long-term research and development efforts.”

Original Content

Snap was previously heavily invested in creating original content, and at one point the company said one of its most popular shows, “The Dead Girls Detective Agency,” had 20 million unique viewers on the app.

The company created a number of shows to be watched on the Snapchat app, but by August 2022 Spiegel said Snap would stop production in a bid to pare back spending. At the time, the company announced it would cut 20% of its workforce, many of whom were on the content teams. Snap estimated that it would save $50 million annually in fixed content costs by axing Snap Originals. Snap hasn’t produced any original content since March 2022. - Samson Amore.

Editorial disclosure: Snap is an investor in dot.LA.

Editor’s note: This newsletter has been updated with comments from Snap.

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Here's What People Are Saying About Day Two of LA Tech Week
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day two of L.A. Tech Week on social:

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LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology
Photo taken by Decerry Donato

On Monday, Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization Goldhirsh Foundation hosted the Technology and Storytelling For Social Good panel at Creative Visions studio to kick off LA Tech week.

Tara Roth, president of the foundation, moderated the panel and gathered nonprofit and tech leaders including Paul Lanctot, web developer of The Debt Collective; Alexis Cabrera, executive director of 9 Dots; Sabra Williams, co-founder of Creative Acts; and Laura Gonzalez, senior program manager of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).

Each of the panelists are grantees of Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050, an initiative launched in 2011 that is continuously trying to drive and track progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. Goldhirsh’s vision is to make Los Angeles better for all and in order to achieve their goal, the foundation makes investments into organizations, creates partnerships and utilizes social capital through community events.

The panelists shared how the work they are doing in each of their respective sectors uses technology to solve some of society's most pressing challenges and highlight the importance of tech literacy across every community.

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LA Tech Week Is Back! Here Are the Events We're Watching

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

LA Tech Week Is Back! Here Are the Events We're Watching
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.


LA Hardtech: Local Talent Meets CEOs: Want to see robots in action? This hardtech event will showcase product demos and feature conversations about all things aircrafts, satellites, electric vehicles, robots and medical devices. June 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in El Segundo.

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