Snap is the latest tech company to reveal its AR offering with Lens Studio: a free desktop tool that allows users to create lenses for Snapchat.
Google, Apple and Facebook have all launched or announced AR platforms this year: Apple’s ARKit launched on iOS 11 in September, Facebook opened up its AR Studio tool to developers this week and Google has introduced an AR Stickers app – created using its ARCore platform – on its Pixel 2 smartphone. (A wider release of ARCore is expected next year.)
Lens Studio allows individual users as well as brands and advertisers to create lenses for Snapchat. The tool can be used to create ‘world lenses’, which are triggered via the rear-view camera, and ‘face lenses’, which are triggered via the front facing camera and appear on users’ faces (think bunny ears and giant tongues).
Only brands and advertisers working with approved partner agencies can create face lenses but world lenses can be created by anyone. Creators can then publish and share lenses using Snapcodes.
The Lens Studio website also includes templates and ‘how to’ guides explaining how to create static and animated objects. In a statement announcing the launch of Lens Studio, Snap said it wanted to make lenses more accessible to creators and more diverse.
The company plans to launch a series of AR challenges throughout 2018 – the first invites creators to come up with a lens “that will bring New Years’ spirit to anyone who plays with it”. The company is offering an iPad Pro and “swag bag” to the creator of the winning Lens (see the Lens Studio website for details).
Lenses were introduced in 2015. Snap claims that 70 million users – one third of its community – now interact with them each day. The company introduced geo-specific lenses in September, including a dancing foam finger which can be unlocked at NBA arenas in the US and Jeff Koons lenses which were made available at Miami Art Week. Snap has also been working with Apple to create lenses using ARKit and revealed a “portal” lens which placed users inside a set from Netflix series Stranger Things back in October.
You can download Lens Studio or find out more at lensstudio.snapchat.com