Instagram Spark AR

Background:
The latest update from Facebook enables Instagram users to design and create their own augmented reality (AR) effects in Stories through Spark AR Studio – a Facebook-owned augmented reality platform.

Details and Implications:
Spark AR Studio is an augmented reality platform for Mac and Windows that allows users to easily create AR effects for mobile cameras. It is akin to Photoshop or Sketch for photos but for AR. Facebook first introduced its Camera Effects Augmented Reality Platform at its F8 conference in April 2017, the platform was re-branded to Spark AR and expanded to Instagram in October 2018. Since then, the AR studio has been in a closed, US-only beta, with only a limited number of creators, influencers and brands having the ability to organically promote their own AR effects.

The latest update means that all users will now have access to Spark AR studio to design immersive, interactive AR experiences. The aim is to allow people to customise the pictures and videos they share on social media using basic coding skills.

Facebook said users who create effects will be able to share them with their followers on Instagram and that designs created by accounts a user follows will automatically be added to their effects tray for use in their own Story post. The social media giant will also be introducing an “Effect Gallery” within Instagram, where users can browse and use any AR effects they like.

Instagram said: “Whether you want to add a new layer of fun to an event like a wedding, birthday party or graduation with a custom filter or you’re a professional who wants to continue to hone their craft, Spark AR Studio has everything you need to get started and with Instagram Stories being used by over 500 million users daily, there’s no better place to express yourself with your own AR effects – or simply share the ways you’re using them with your community.” In comparison to Instagram Stories’ 500 million daily active users (DAUs), Snapchat saw around 190 million DAUs for Q1 2019.

Online fashion house ASOS is one of the first to fine tune its own social media offering in accordance with the AR update, launching a filter that was an image of ASOS packaging, which it layered over a woman’s eyes to make it appear she had ASOS on her mind. This is the type of creativity now available to retailers and other businesses looking to engage shoppers via social media.

Instagram’s update comes at a time when rival platform Snapchat has also amped up its AR play, rolling out its Landmarkers function – adding an AR layer to famous landmarks – and announcing the launch of its third generation Spectacles AR glasses.

Summary:
Augmented Reality technology is increasingly becoming a point of difference within popular apps and software – with Google announcing just last week that augmented reality tools are being integrated into its Maps app. AR has already been introduced into Google search – just search ‘Tiger’ in your Google search app. Whether its beauty brands or retailers allowing users to ‘try-on’ products or retailers or advertisers creating AR filter to pay homage to their brand heritage or to raise awareness for a cause they support, AR filters can play a role in furthering the relationship between a brand and their audience. Now that users can get their hands on their own AR effects, brands will be able to create further opportunities within this new medium for user-generated content marketing.

Further Reading:
AdWeek | The Verge | TechCrunch