Fun play experiences to more utility experiences, how AR is evolving: Interview with Snap's Joe Darko

Snap AR's ecosystem consists of Lens Studio, light camera kits, and programs.


  • Snapchat's parent company Snap is thoroughly investing in AR.
  • Snap AR community has 300,000 creators building 3 million lenses.
  • Snap for some time has been partnering with businesses to offer try-on experiences for consumers.
Snapchat Joe Darko

Snapchat has been one of the most popular social media and instant messaging apps for several years. One of the major reasons why Snapchat has stayed in the public eye is due to AR Lenses (filters) and of course, the streaks. We all maintain streaks, don’t we? Also Read - Snap tests sponsored links in My AI, brings ads in Spotlight and Stories

While the app’s AR library has been growing, not many know that Snaphat’s parent company Snap has its very own community dedicated to AR lenses. Also Read - Snap brings AR mirrors and updates ARES Shopping Suite

In fact, it has its own programs and solutions for aspiring creators, developers, and businesses. Some time back, Snap partnered with Tiffany & Co., a US-based jewelry company, to offer an exclusive AR Try-On experience of products from Tiffany’s catalog. Also Read - SPS 2023: Snapchat gets Friendship Flashback, After Dark stories, and updates to My AI chatbot

More recently, it unveiled ARES (AR Enterprise Services) to offer AR solutions to enterprises.

Having said that, Snap appears to be serious about AR, with plans to maximize the usage of AR lenses in both the consumer and business sectors.

We at Techlusive interviewed Snap’s Global Head of AR Developer Relations, Joe Darko, to get more insights about Snap’s AR framework.

From Snap’s AR evolution to the making of AR Lenses on its Lens Studio app, we’ve gathered some significant information.

What does Snap’s AR landscape and ecosystem look like?

To get a clear perspective of Snap’s focus on AR, we asked Joe to explain the company’s AR landscape and ecosystem.

“So what we consider Snap AR is a factor of products and programs. We have products like Lens Studio and Camera Kit SDK for developers to leverage to build AR experiences or bring AT into their app.”

Lens Studio is the AR platform that AR developers or creators use to build Lenses for Snapchat, and beyond.

On the program side, Joe said that there’s the Snap Lens Network. The Snap Lens Network is a network of AR creators, AR developers, and AR partners, who primarily use Lens Studio to create AR experiences, whether for business or for entertainment.

Then there’s the Ghost program.”So think of it as a program, which supports AR developers to push the boundaries of what’s possible in AR and create app-like experiences using the lens studio it is designed to unlock the next generation of AR products that help people shop, learn, play, and solve everyday problems around the world.”

There’s also a Spectacles program, where developers get the opportunity to leverage the next-generation spectacles, to create AR experiences for the future of wearables.

“Over the past two years, hundreds of developers from 30 countries have experimented with Spectacles. They’ve built hundreds of Lenses that explore how we play games, learn, take care of ourselves and more – all built right in Lens Studio. Our next-generation Spectacles are our first pair of glasses that bring augmented reality to life and overlay computing onto the world around you.”

How has Snap evolved in the AR field and what’s the future like?

Snap has been growing in the AR field quite rapidly and so we asked about the AR evolution at Snap and the future of AR.

“Eight years ago, we launched Lenses, the first mass consumer AR product, to lower the barrier for self-expression: if you can layer a puppy over your face, maybe you will feel more comfortable expressing yourself with friends. And a lot of people on Snapchat, when they look at a Snap, they think Lenses, because that’s where they were able to use do ear and rainbow Lenses.”

“But now when you really look at it, all these fun experiences are becoming more advanced because of the capabilities of Lens Studio, which powers Snapchat. Now it’s not only about the fun experiences. It’s about utility experiences. So it’s moved from toys to tools, fun play experiences to more utility experiences. And that is the future of AR.”

How Snap AR is helping consumers and businesses, practically?

Since AR has evolved from being a playful experience to a more utility experience, we asked how Snap AR is helping consumers and businesses.

Joe responded that Snap provides its own SDK (Software development kit) in CameraKit. CameraKit brings Snap camera into other apps, allowing businesses to bring AR experiences that benefit both the consumers and the business.

For instance, Snap partnered with MyGlamm, Sugar Cosmetics, and Flipkart in India last year. With the help of Snap’s camera SDK, buyers of MyGlamm and Sugar cosmetics were able to get try-on experiences (although on beta).

So without getting the products at home, buyers were able to try makeup products, which saved time and also saved costs for the business (since there was no transit).

Flipkart as well ran a campaign (Super brand, Super Price, Super Fast) in partnership with Snap, where an AR filter was created that helped the e-commerce platform get a massive reach. It also helped Flipkart advertise its shopping app.

How Snap AR separates itself from the competition?

Since Meta and other companies are also exploring AR capabilities, we asked how Snap separates itself from the rest of the competition.

“I would like to touch base on three main or four main parts of the let’s say, our ecosystem and what actually separates us from our competitors. So first and foremost is the  Advanced AR tech stack and capabilities of Lens Studio. When we talk to AR developers and creators, from their perspective, Lens Studio has various capabilities, and high-end features, which enable them to build AR experiences across many verticals, or use cases like games, shopping, education, and entertainment. For instance, one of our latest features is Ray Tracing.”

“Ray Tracing is a technical capability that enhances the realism of augmented reality experiences by reflecting light on digital objects. Now, Lenses that feature AR diamond jewelry, clothing and so much more can reach ultra-realistic quality as seen in the Tiffany & Co. example. We also have (Multiplayer AR) Two people across the world can engage with the same AR object using our Connected Lenses technology, to play a game, or collaborate on a task to get things done. With this and many other advanced features and capabilities, a wide range of experiences are possible for AR developers and creators (games, self-expression, learning, fashion + shopping, other helpful utilities).”

“Secondly, the distribution potential. Lenses built on Lens Studio can be distributed across iOS and Android in Snapchat, in other mobile apps and websites through Camera Kit, and on Spectacles.”

“Finally, we have a large and engaged community on Snapchat. More than 250 million people engage with AR daily on average, and approximately 2 out of every 3 Snapchatters engage with AR daily.”

How big is the Snap AR community?

“We have about 300,000 creators in our AR ecosystem who have built about 3 million lenses.”

Joe also stated that the creator community is growing across the world and signaled that many Indian creators are on the rise. He further said that Snap’s India AR creators community grew by 60 percent in 2022.

Who can join Snap’s AR community and Snap Lens Network (SLN)?

Pretty much everyone who’s fond of Snap’s AR filters or lenses can start making Lenses on the Lens Studio app. That’s how easily anyone can join Snap’s AR community.

Once someone starts making Lenses on Snap’s Lens Studio app and grows their skill sets, they will be able to join the Snap Lens network (SLN).

“Snap Lens Network exists to recruit the best and top AR creators, developers, and partners in the ecosystem, build a community around them, support them, help them monetize and innovate with us.”

What this means is that while Snap is allowing users to be creative with Lenses, it’s also giving them a platform to earn and learn.

How exactly can members of Snap Lens Network (SLN) earn money or monetize their work?

Snap AR community members can monetize their work, here’s how.

Joe said that Snap helps creators connect with businesses. So if there’s a project and you have the skillset, and also, you are a part of SLN, Snap may connect you with the business to make Lenses for them. This will let the SLN members earn as they make Lenses.

What about AR products?

When asked about the product side of AR, Joe hinted at why the recent Snap Next Generation Spectacles isn’t commercial.

Joe stated that Snap, is testing the Next Generation Spectacles with developers to learn and iterate. The company seems to test its first-gen AR glasses with developers and creators before making them commercial.

For the unversed, Snap’s Spectacles 1, 2, and 3 were all commercially available for purchase. However, the Next Generation Spectacles aren’t available and there seems to be no plan of making them commercial anytime soon.

It is worth noting that the Next Generation Spectacles are Snap’s first AR glasses, all glasses before this only offered the ability to take snaps with the help of the in-built camera.

  • Published Date: March 24, 2023 11:53 PM IST
  • Updated Date: March 25, 2023 7:54 PM IST
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