At the opening of its virtual Lens Fest, taking place Dec. 8-10 and open to the public, Snap is furthering its facilitation of AR development with new tools for Lens Studio version 3.3 and a planned investment into its AR creator community.
The unifying theme for Lens Studio 3.3 is making the creation of AR experiences easier for developers and artists with a pair of new features. First, the addition of a Visual Scripting tool enables users to build AR interactions without coding with a graphical interface and node-based scripting. Second, the Building Blocks tool provides prefabricated assets and helper scripts to guide users in building Lenses.
Lens Studio 3.3 also improves the development process. Texture Compression helps developers shrink their graphic assets and textures inside Lens Studio to fit with the 4 MB cap. Logger enables users to group, filter, and search messages to hasten development workflows.
In what has become a customary event for these updates, Lens Studio also boosts its library of templates for jump-starting Lens development. The new templates include Face Morph for manipulating faces into 3D masks with custom meshes, Configuration for creating shopping and try-on Lenses, and Tween for scripting animations for games and similar experiences.
Finally, Snap has also improved the process of managing Lenses with the introduction of My Lenses 2.0. The tool allows users to manage their inventory via web and away from the desktop Lens Studio environment, search for Lenses and view their metrics, switch between accounts, scan triggers, view preview videos, and more.
In addition to the enhancements to Lens Studio, Snap is committing $3.5 million to initiatives supporting its community of AR creators and developers. With the investment, Snap will continue to connect Lens Studio creators with brands for sponsored projects and host the AR Creator Residency Program, among other efforts. Additional details on funding will follow in 2021.
During the event, Snap is also premiering new short films shot on Spectacles 3, following last week's debut of Summaeverythang by Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey, and previewing what participants can expect over the remainder of the conference.
In roughly three years since its launch, Lens Studio has become a key cog in Snap's augmented reality strategy by generating 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 within Lens Explorer in Snapchat as well as in the Snap Camera desktop application, with the top-performing Lenses achieving view counts in the billions.
Tools for user-generated content has 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 getting in on the act with Project MARS and Aero.