Unbeknown to most, Augmented Reality was first invented in 1968 where Ivan Sutherland, a Harvard professor and computer scientist, created the first head-mounted display called ‘The Sword of Damocles’. The user experienced computer-generated graphics that enhanced their sensory perception of the world. While images of the wearable technology appears almost barbaric to our modern day designs, it is not far from what we’re experiencing today. While the actual term ‘Augmented Reality’ wasn’t coined until the 90’s, the technology has long been used in society, however, the accessibility of the invention and potential has come leaps and bounds in the past five years.
Speaking with Sophia Dominguez, Head of Camera Platform Partnerships at Snap, camera capabilities have allowed “huge advancements” in how we capture moments. “Snapchat has always opened to the camera as it is the fastest way to capture and share a moment, which really resonates with Gen Z who use the camera to communicate visually and tell their stories. These combined elements have led the way when it comes to AR usage. Over 75 percent of our community engages with AR every day on average, with Snapchatters playing with Lenses 85 percent more each day than they did last year.”
Dominguez continues, “Gen-Z are true digital natives. They communicate visually by using their camera as a means to experience the world, express their version of the world…”
In addition to the capabilities available to users around the globe, developing the technology has never been so easy. What used to be exclusive to coding specialists, computer engineers and developers, has now been made usable by everyday tech users. An example of software is the Snap Lens Studio which allows people to create their own filters, whether it be for a special occasion or a fun chance to up-skill, and with a little know how (access to YouTube) even I, a journalist with no coding experience, could do it. And it’s the same technology used by the in-house team at Snapchat.
“Lens Studio is similar to a game engine in that it allows you to design an AR experience that comes to life in a 3D space,” Dominguez explains to ICON. “This means what you publish using Lens Studio, can be experienced on a Snap either on your face or in the environment around you. There are numerous features within Lens Studio that enables creators and developers to build anything you can imagine! The most simple Lenses can be built in a matter of minutes using some of our templates, leading all the way up to more complex Lenses that require 3D modelling, animation, and interactive engineering skills.
During the recent Snap Partner Summit (SPS), Snap announced updates to the Lens Studio to now feature the Snap ML (machine learning) which will continue to push the boundaries of AR creation for developers and users.”
As brand’s look to new and creative ways to engage a bigger pool of customers – namely Millennials and Generation Z kids – AR technology is being adapted to the fashion sphere. In July, Italian luxury fashion house Gucci tapped the social media platform for its first ever “try-on” lens. It allows customers to try on and purchase four iconic Gucci sneakers via two different lenses. At the time of writing, Ralph Lauren similarly used the technology via an augmented reality world for a digital performance with Chance The Rapper. The filter allowed users to walk through a virtual store and click certain objects to learn more about the initiative and the lauded rapper.
As for what’s next in AR, Dominguez has teased a number of new developments including a “Scan feature” where account holders press and hold on the camera screen to unlock useful lenses based on what’s in front of them. “Snap’s new Scan partners include PlantSnap, where Snapchatters can identify 90% of all known plants and trees and Dog Scanner which allows users to recognise almost 400 dog breeds. Later this year, we will partner with Yuka to power the Nutrition Scanner, which will provide a rating on the quality of ingredients in many packaged foods by scanning an item’s label.”