(Reuters) - Snapchat owner Snap Inc on Tuesday launched its latest iteration of generative AI technology that will allow users to see more realistic special effects when they use phone cameras to film themselves, as it seeks to stay ahead of social media rivals.

The pioneer in the field of augmented reality (AR), which overlays computerized effects onto photos or videos of the real world, also announced an upgraded version of its developer program called Lens Studio, which lets artists and developers create AR features for Snapchat or other websites and apps.

Snapchat users will be able to use advanced AR special effects, called lenses, in the coming months, the company said.

Bobby Murphy, Snap's chief technology officer, said the enhanced Lens Studio would reduce the time it takes to create AR effects from weeks to hours and produce more complex work.

"What's fun for us is that these tools both stretch the creative space in which people can work, but they're also easy to use, so newcomers can build something unique very quickly," Murphy said in an interview.

Lens Studio now includes a suite of generative AI tools, such as an AI assistant that can answer questions if a developer needs help. Another tool will allow artists to type a prompt and automatically generate a three-dimensional image that they can use for their AR lens, removing the need to develop a 3D model from scratch.

Snap also has plans to create full body, rather than just facial AR experiences, such as generating a new outfit, which is currently very difficult to create, Murphy said.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Austin; editing by Barbara Lewis)

By Sheila Dang