At the opening of the virtual Lens Fest, taking place December 8-10 and open to the public, Snap is advancing the facilitation of AR development with new tools for Lens Studio version 3.3 and a planned investment in its AR maker community.
The unifying theme for Lens Studio 3.3 is to make creating AR experiences easier for developers and artists with a few new features. First, the addition of a Visual Scripting tool allows users to build AR interactions without coding with a graphical interface and node-based scripting. Second, the Building Blocks tool provides pre-fabricated resources and helper scripts to guide users in building lenses.
Lens Studio 3.3 also improves the development process. Texture Compression helps developers shrink their graphics and textures in Lens Studio to fit the 4MB cap. Logger allows users to group, filter, and search messages to speed development workflows.
In what has become a common event for these updates, Lens Studio is also expanding its library of templates to kick-start Lens development. The new templates include Face Morph for manipulating faces in 3D masks with custom meshes, Setup for creating shop and fitting lenses, and Tween for script animation for games and similar experiences.
Finally, Snap has also improved the Lenses management process with the introduction of My Lenses 2.0. The tool allows users to manage their inventory over the web and outside the Lens Studio environment on the desktop, search for lenses and view their stats, switch between accounts, scan triggers, preview videos and more.
In addition to enhancements to Lens Studio, Snap is allocating $ 3.5 million to initiatives to support the AR creator and developer community. With the investment, Snap Lens Studio will continue to connect creators with brands for sponsored projects, including hosting the AR Creator Residency program. Additional details on funding will follow in 2021.
At the event, Snap will also be premiering new short films shot on Spectacles 3, following last week’s debut Summaeverythang by Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey, and a taste of what attendees can expect for the remainder of the conference.
In about three years since its launch, Lens Studio has become a key cog in Snap’s augmented reality strategy, driving growth in available AR experiences for Snapchat. Users (tens of thousands according to Snap) have manufactured more than 1.5 million lenses, which are searchable in Lens Explorer in Snapchat and in the Snap Camera desktop application, with the top performing lenses reaching billions of views.
User-generated content tools have become a growing segment within the augmented reality industry itself. Facebook and Apple have their own respective offerings, Spark AR and Reality Composer for easy AR creation, with Unity and Adobe joining Project MARS and Aero.