Snapchat launched Lens Studio last year, though the focus was on their World Lens effects which enable users to overlay virtual objects on real-world scenes. This update will facilitate the development of more in-depth visual tools – now, you’ll be able to build three-dimensional overlays which respond to facial movement.
Facebook rolled out similar with their AR Studio, which opened to all developers back in December.
It’s taken Snap a little longer to adapt, but the option will ensure the platform can keep pace with Facebook, and keep pushing the development of innovative new tools, through the input of outside creatives.
And that’s important – as per a new Boston Consulting Group report, commissioned by Snapchat, around 80 million people in the US (a third of all smartphone users) now engage with augmented reality tools at least once per month.
“According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), that number is expected to jump to 120 million by 2021, and the smartphone camera will be at the center of those experiences. For advertisers, being a part of the smartphone camera means getting in front of where people are increasingly spending their time.”
Indeed, both Facebook and Snapchat are forging ahead with advanced AR options – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he foresees the Stories format taking over from the News Feed as the default social networking option in future, which is partly why they’re pushing so hard on Facebook Stories, while Snap says that most large advertisers are either already using, or planning to use, AR in their campaigns.
Given this, adding in more advanced capacity on this front makes sense, while opening the tools up to more creatives will also help ensure more people are given the tools to build the next big AR thing, like Snap’s popular ‘Dancing Hotdog’.
On this front, Snap has also announced a new Official Creator Program, another step towards better ingratiating the app with influencers. The program will offer extra promotion, technical support, and early access to new features and templates.
In addition, Snap will also showcase new creative work in the Discover tab, giving users the option to see all public uses of such snaps, and try the Lenses themselves.
It’s a logical move from Snap. After Facebook opened up their AR creation tools to all creators, Snap needed to follow suit, in many ways, as it expands the creative pool beyond their internal teams. Snap would hate to see the next big AR tool go to Facebook – and while there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway, they’re at least keeping pace.
And for brands, the option opens up new options – which, as highlighted by the above stats, could be set to become far more significant.