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Snap launches Lens Studio, enabling public to create their own AR experiences

Tim Maytom

Snapchat owner Snap has announced the launch of Lens Studio, a desktop app for Windows and Mac OS that enables developers, creators, agencies and brands to build and distribute their own Snapchat augmented reality lenses.

The free app will enable anyone from students to professional artists to create their own AR experiences, inserting 2D and 3D objects via the rear-facing camera in Snapchat. The release builds on Snapchat’s recently-added ‘World Lenses’ functionality, which enabled users to insert virtual objects the live ‘in the world’, rather than being tied to a subject in the forward-facing ‘selfie’ camera.

The Studio includes templates and guides to help creators of varying experiences get started with AR, offering everything from basic 2D design skills to more advanced 3D modelling and animation tools. It also includes a scripting API, enabling developers to code more sophisticated interactive experiences.

As part of the launch, Snap has partnered with seven AR development agencies to assist advertisers who wish to create Lenses quickly and affordably. Advertisers who partner with these firms will be able to create both World and Face Lenses, unlike the general public, who will be limited to World Lenses. The partner agencies include Avatar Labs, Haus, Trigger Global, Vidmob and Media Monks.

The announcement comes just a day after Facebook announced its own AR Studio program was leaving its private beta and becoming available to developers worldwide. Snapchat has traditionally been hesitant to work with third-party developers or provide them with extensive tools, so the introduction of the Lens Studio is a considerable shift for the firm, which is clearly hoping to make AR advertising on Snapchat more feasible for smaller brands.

According to Snap, Lenses can be created in as little as a few days by working with Lens Studio Partners or directly in the studio, and will be targetable with nearly all the parameters available to Snap Ads, including age, gender, interest categories, device, custom audiences and third-party segments.

The company’s figures show that ad campaigns with Lenses drive on average a 19 point lift in ad awareness and a 15 per cent lift in purchase intent, and robust third-party measurement from firms including Nielsen In-App Polling, Datalogix and Placed will be available to brands using Lens campaigns.

Over a third of Snapchat’s audience interacts with Lenses every day, averaging over three minutes of interaction each per day. The company’s internal estimates suggest that over 1 trillion photos will be taken using the Snapchat camera in 2017, resulting in over 3.5bn Snaps and over 500 years of playtime with AR every day.