Hi there! Before you close the tab thinking "not another snapchat AR review", I'd like point out that my favorite technology activated moment involved a snapchat filter. When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease a few years ago, it was difficult to engage with her as we had in the past. She didn't have the patience for scrabble or watercolors and even the stories from her youth were getting lost. Because her hearing was also in decline, it was difficult to have meaningful conversations with her. I thought it could be interesting to introduce my grandmother to snapchat because she used to religiously take pictures of all the events and milestones over the years. When I pulled up the app, with the camera facing towards my grandmother and myself, her face instantly lit up. We spent the next half hour playing with all the filters (our favorite was the dog, because my grandmother couldn't believe that her tongue could be that long), and by the end, we were all smiles. It became our running tradition to try out all the new filters (and the old one's, because for my grandmother they were always new). When she passed away later that year, I was glad that I had saved all those videos - although my grandmother would be upset if the one with her with a beard ever got out.

Snapchat provides a platform for generatively delivering content that is both deeply personal and effortlessly enjoyable.

From Lens Studio Homepage

WHAT IT IS

Lens Studio by Snap Inc. is a platform that allows content creators (whether programmers, designers, animators or otherwise) to implement and share their Augmented Reality (AR) creations through Snapchat - the companies mobile AR application.

The user creates a 2D or 3D design and imports it into Lens Studio.

Once in the application, the user can augment their design with built-in tools that control animation and interactive triggers.

After, the user submits their "Lens" to be published on Snapchat. Once accepted, Snap generates a unique Snapcode (similar to a QR code) for the user to share with their friends or clients. Animations from Lens Studio Homepage.

WHY IT EXISTS

The Lens Studio exists for several key reasons. First, Snapchat benefits from new content on their platform. Users continue to engage with the site because the content is constantly refreshed. Second, Lens Studio allows for more explicit control and artistic direction for content creators and businesses on the Snapchat app. The Lens Studio offers an advertising opportunity for users on the platform. Third, crowdsourcing projects might lead Snapchat to their next big breakthrough.

I truly believe that the next distruptive technology idea won't be born out of Silicon Valley, but instead will solve a challenge that faces a demographic that is largely absent or hidden in the tech sphere. The smartest thing a company can do to understand these new opporutnities is to understand how a multitude of users interact with their current products.

For example, I was at the Reality, Virtually Hackathon a few weeks ago at the MIT Media Lab and the winning project created a mobile AR application that allows for friends and family of patients in the hospital to grow a virtual garden to show support. This is certainly a deviation of a traditional mobile AR application which typically focuses on a single user and doesn't consider that user's off platform life experience. Lessons from the concept include that Snap Inc. could network their shared AR features in new ways that acknowledge the shared human experience. There could be special games to play during the superbowl or friends at a baby shower could share messages or 3D-content support.

WHY I LOVE IT

While the main use cases highlighted on the website focus on snapchat filters (content that tracks and modifies the user's face) and tracked 3D objects, I've seen some highly refreshing examples of how this technology could be used to truly augment the human experience. The platform is accessible users with varying degrees of experience in interaction design and 3D modeling and animation. The content generated is expansive and I could find most everything I could imagine through the snapcodes.

POTENTIAL IMPROVEMENTS

While the main use cases highlighted on the website focus on snapchat filters (content that tracks and modifies the user's face) and tracked 3D objects, I've seen some highly refreshing examples of how this technology could be used to truly augment the human experience.

RELATED PRODUCTS

The below products (which I also enjoy) represent nearest neighbors to what makes Lens Studio such a refreshing and impactful tool in three main categories. Other companies working on interesting AR projects include Magic Leap, Niantic, Ubiquity6 and The Void.

Big Data + Content

  • Amazon X-Ray is an exclusive feature on Amazon Prime Video that helps members learn more about what (or who) they're watching. Users can access meta-data based on the timecode in the video their watching including information about the cast and characters, trivia, what music is playing and bonus content.

  • Google Lens is an image recognition mobile app developed by Google, designed to bring up relevant information using computer vision. Through the camera on android phones, users can find information in a novel and accessible way.

Artifically Intelligent Characters

  • Magic Leap x ILM Labs Magic Leap announced a partnership with ILMxLabs to imagine cinematic quality content for their AR product. “We are pushing into an era of experiential, persistent and perceptual storytelling. We want people to step inside our stories, and we want those stories to react back to people in deeply compelling ways. However, before magical realism becomes a seamless part of everyday life, it needs some advanced prototyping. Our ‘Collab Lab’ is a focal point of practical problem solving, concrete groundwork, sweat and hyper innovation,” states ILMxLAB Executive Creative Director John Gaeta.

  • Lovot Launched at CES this January, Lovot is meant to be loved and to make the user happy. It supposedly learns user behaviors and adapts to better assimilate into the life of their owner.

Location Based Experience Design

  • The Void is a whole-body, fully immersive VR experience, that allows for groups of people to experience interactive storytelling at scale. The intellectual property associated with the VR experience can be updated to match the physical set of the space allowing for varied experience and target audiences in the same physical space.

  • Niantic is building an AR platform for current and future generations of augmented reality hardware. Their Pokemon Go concept was incredibly popular, encouraging users to venture out into the world to collect virtual pokemon and battle virtually at training centers.

TRY IT OUT