The UK has officially exited the European Union, completing the long and tumultuous Brexit story and putting the storied nation once again on its own on the international stage.
And while some are wondering what the future holds for an EU-less UK, the country is kicking off 2020 with its typical innovative design-meets-technology flair via a tie-up with Snapchat involving one of its most prominent assets: money.
The new 20-pound note (worth about $26 US dollars), which went into circulation this week, has been completely redesigned, replacing the image of Queen Elizabeth II with the self-portrait image of famed artist JMW Turner.
Touting the new note as the “most secure Bank of England banknote yet,” the government decided to promote the new banknote using augmented reality through the lens of Snapchat.
To access the feature, simply open the Snapchat app (iOS and Android) and search for “£20 note” in the search field to bring up the Lens. Then, when you point your smartphone camera at the new banknote using Snapchat, the bill transforms into an animated landscape (Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire”) with stunning detail.
The feature appears to be region-locked, but I was able to get it working by using a UK VPN and a computer screen image of the new banknote.
If you don’t have a VPN, and you’re not in the UK but want to give it a try, you can use the Snapcode (above) and experience it using an online image of the new 20-pound banknote or a real (again, new version) 20-pound banknote.
“Turner’s art was transformative,” said Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, in a statement. “I am delighted that the work of arguably the single most influential British artist of all time will now appear on another 2 billion works of art – the new £20 notes that people can start using today.”
Using AR to transform the look of currency is a popular trick, one that Google used back in 2018 to put the faces of historic women on US currency. Similarly, back in 2016, the Bank of England teamed up with Blippar to use AR to promote the country’s new 5-pound banknote, and more recently, Russia issued 200 and 2000 ruble banknotes that could be transformed in AR using a specialized app.
However, by bringing the massive reach and user base of Snapchat into the mix, the Bank of England has ensured that the public will not only be aware of the new currency, but will likely get an unexpected dose of AR-powered art history education hidden in their wallets and purses.