Snapchat has held its annual Lens Fest AR showcase event, which was once again hosted digitally this year due to COVID impacts.
Lens Fest provides a platform for Snap to show off its latest advances in AR, and where it’s headed with the technology, which this time around includes a range of new options for Lens developers, advanced opportunities for brand connection via AR display, and updates on Snap’s AR-enabled Spectacles, which are currently in development.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the event.
First off, Snap has shared a range of updates to its Lens Studio tool, enabling new types of Lens creation, via digital animations that better interact with real-world stimulus.
The most exciting development on this front is real world physics, which will mean more of Snap’s AR creations will now appear and react more realistically to forces like gravity and collisions.
Snapchat also unveiled an advanced form of its ‘World Mesh’ AR mapping, which will better enable creators to use depth information and world geometry understanding to create AR experiences that look and feel more realistic.
Snap’s also added new real-time data integrations which will enable Lens creators to incorporate elements like weather and stock market info into their creations.
The new integrations will be enabled via Snap’s API Library for Lenses, with initial partners including iTranslate, alpaca, AccuWeather and FTX for these displays.
It’s also looking to advance its Landmarker Lens tools, which enable creators to build on top of real world objects, by adding ‘Custom Landmarkers’, through which AR creators will be able to scan in any real world place or object, then build visuals on top of that structure.
For brands, and creators seeking to monetize their work, Snap’s also adding a new Lens Call-To-Action option, which will enable creators include a link within a Lens, making it easier to drive direct traffic from an AR effect.
While there are also new analytics for Lens creators, built into the ‘My Lenses’ section of Lens Studio.
Snapchat’s also outlined a range of new advances for brands, and the rising opportunity of AR more broadly, with 100 million consumers now shopping with AR, according to Snap’s data.
Snapchat says that AR usage is now an engrained habitual behavior for younger audiences - ‘as much as texting is for older generations’ - which presents significant opportunity for business, and its new advances will better enable brands to build product and purchase experiences into AR tools.
Snapchat points to its recent acquisition of 3D modeling company Vertebrae, which enables brands to create and manage realistic 3D version of their products, and extend those models in Snapchat and to their own websites to enable visualization and virtual try-on.
And with two in three consumers now more likely to purchase after encountering a branded AR experience, coupled with the rise of eCommerce more broadly, that could open up a range of new possibilities and opportunities for businesses that can make use of these connective tools to showcase their offerings.
Finally, Snap has also shared some additional insight into its coming AR-enabled Spectacles, which have been in development for some time, and are now getting closer to a retail launch.
“We introduced Spectacles over five years ago as a fun, hands-free camera designed to help capture your perspective and stay in the moment. Since then, we’ve taken an iterative, public approach to improving each generation and learning alongside the community. Now, our next generation Spectacles (with AR display) have helped creators make hundreds of Lenses that bring new perspectives to things we do everyday.”
The most interesting development here is ‘Connected Lenses’ for Spectacles (above), which enable multiple users to experience AR elements through the device.
Snapchat’s also added ‘Location Triggers’ for Spectacles AR, which enables creators to build visuals available within a specified GPS radius.
On another front, Snap has also announced a new AR content accelerator program for creators called ‘523’, which will provide support for “small, minority-owned content companies and creatives that traditionally lack access and resources”.
Approved applicants will receive funding ($10k per month) and support from Snap’s team to help them develop new AR experiences.
There’s a heap to take in, and a heap of opportunities here, which could open the door to a range of new features and tools for creators and brands in the evolving AR space.
And it is worth considering. In addition to Snap’s Spectacles, both Apple and Facebook are also developing their own AR glasses, while Snap notes that its users already engage with AR more than 6 billion times per day, on average.
There’s a lot of potential here, and it’s worth taking a deeper look into these evolving elements, and considering what they mean for broader consumption trends moving forward, and how that will eventually impact digital outreach.
You can check out the opening sessions from Lens Fest 2021 here.