Queen Elizabeth Tower and the Great Bell, better known as Big Ben, are currently undergoing extensive renovation works, with the tower covered by 98m scaffolding while the 159-year-old structure is being repaired.

However, although Big Ben is not due to be uncovered until 2021, Snapchat users can now get a sneak peek at the restored London icon thanks to a new augmented reality lens.

Using the Snapchat lens, users can peel away the scaffolding to reveal Big Ben inside a snow globe, meaning those wanting to take festive selfies with the landmark need not have unsightly scaffolding in the picture. Before the scaffolding was erected, Big Ben was one of the most popular locations for Snapping in the UK, according to the multimedia messaging app.

The virtual clock face will show the correct time and will even chime on the hour, after Big Ben has been silent since August last year (aside from special occasions.)

Snapchatters must be within about 300m of Big Ben to activate the lens, which will be live for several months.

Snapchat Big Ben feature key for AR

The Big Ben Lens is powered by new location-based and 3D mapping AR technology and according to Snapchat, one of the first large-scale, widely available AR experiences of its kind.

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By GlobalData

Although this may not be the most ground-breaking use of AR, it will be welcomed by selfie-takers. Earlier this year, disappointed tourists took to TripAdvisor to express their frustration at Big Ben’s new appearance.

Since first launching Lenses almost three year ago, they have been a popular feature of the app, which has fallen on hard times over the past year after losing five million users in the last six months. Yesterday, Snapchat launched Lens Challenges, in which users can challenge each other to complete tasks, most likely an attempt to tap into the success of a similar feature, community challenges, on widely popular app TikTok.

Eitan Pilipski VP of Snap’s Camera Platform said that the new lens is not only a fun addition, it also showcases Snapchat’s AR capabilites:

“We are thrilled to unwrap Big Ben for our Snapchat community in London. This holiday, we wanted to showcase the imaginative power of Snap’s Augmented Reality experiences by deconstructing the scaffolding around Big Ben – at least for a few special moments.

“We believe that every great AR experience reveals new possibilities. Our goal was to bring together the most cutting edge mapping and imaging technologies to create the kind of unique, location-specific experience that only Snap – and perhaps Father Christmas – can deliver.”