Snapchat launches AR lens development software

Snapchat
The popular phone app - Snapchat - Photo by Tero Vesalainen via Pixabay

The developers behind the incredibly popular phone application Snapchat have recently launched new software that allows 3rd party developers to created augmented reality experiences. This means an expansion of what will be on offer for Snapchat users beyond the experiences that are currently made in-house.

The Lens Studio AR software will let developers design and create interactive, 3D augmented reality experiences from their desktop workstations. The launch of this software broadens the appeal of Snapchat’s AR world so that it can compete with Facebook who have recently launched its own AR effects software to developers.

While the software does not yet allow the creation of AR “selfie masks” these new AR experiences will give Snapchat a useful boost in user numbers especially since it has lost some of its user base to Instagram.

While anyone can use the tool to create 3D AR experiences, the lenses will still need to be marketed by businesses in the form of QR “Snapcodes” which users need to scan to unlock the effect for use. Snapchat will only display the lens experiences on their app if businesses pay the required fees in order to create a sponsored lens.

At least one-third of Snapchat’s 178 million daily users will use 3D lenses for 3 minutes on average every day. This adds up to an astonishing 500 years of active AR usage every day.

These numbers have been accomplished with only the 3000 AR lenses that Snapchat has developed in-house. The opening up of the development software to 3rd parties means that even more unique AR experiences can be engaged with by users.

The opening up of the software also means an opening up of Snapchats’ marketing opportunities. With advertisers no longer needing to go through a lengthy development process with Snapchat’s in-house developers, they can outsource the work to other agencies and create more advertising business for Snapchat.

Analysts believe this a wise move for Snapchat which has previously been known to be against third party development on their app. Even though this move may be reactionary in response to advances by Facebook and Instagram, it is still welcomed by many.

Snapchat has gone through many developments this year including updating it’s app to recognise objects and tag them in uploads.

While Snapchat will gain a large number more advertising partnerships through this move, the real future of AR will depends on more than brand interactions. Many are hoping that Snapchat will be able to facilitate a great deal of AR experiences that go beyond short lived marketing campaigns.

The software itself is a slightly downgraded version of what Snapchat’s in-house team uses but offers a huge amount of functionality regardless. While experienced 3D modelling professionals will get the most out of it, the software is still open enough for anyone to get started with it.