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Augmented Reality & 'Ugandan Knuckles': a quick scan of the Snapchat Lens Creator Community

Teen hobbies typically include partying, writing assignments, playing sports and… creating Snap lenses?

Yes - ever since Snapchat opened the doors to its Lens Studio last December, the 17 year olds of today have boldly been creating Augmented Reality Lenses, popular enough to rival (and potentially, beat) Snapchat’s own famous puppy face filters and 3D dancing hot dogs.

The secret sauce?

These lenses are created off viral memes and cultural references; in fact, whatever is on the wave of relevancy to the Snapchat generation at the time.

We recruited a few of these talented, young creators who’s lenses have gone viral, to our own Lens Creator community.

Here we ask them what sparked this trend, how they identified what people wanted and where they predict Augmented Reality going from here.

NOTE: All Snapcodes in this post can be scanned, so readers are encouraged to take out their phones, open the Snapchat app and have a go with these lenses!

1. Is there a big community of lens creators? Would you say it's taking off or still relatively new territory?

Alfred: I would say there’s a community of great creators making some amazing stuff. But it is still new so there’s a ton of possibilities to create games, art, branded content and amazing AR experiences.

Lens studio is the world's largest AR platform, and I hope it keeps on growing at the rate it has until now.

I wish Snapchat would add more functionality like geolocation, the possibility to incorporate time into lenses, and maybe a syncing feature so multiplayer games would be possible at some point.

Benjamin: I wouldn't say it's big but it absolutely has untapped potential and is starting to take off rapidly.

2. Which lens have you created that’s been most popular and shareable? What do you think made it so popular?

Nick: “JustMonika” by far. Its numbers blow all my other lenses statistics out of the water. Its popularity can be attributed to many different aspects. It references a video game that is already insanely popular (Doki Doki Literature Club) and the lens can be used as sort of a reactionary image.

The way the character looks at you appears like she is judging you and I have seen plenty of good jokes made using my lens.
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Lens Stats: 896,000 scans

Benjamin: I created a "Vaporwave" lens, based on the music and visual aesthetics. It got over 2.2 million views, which I was quite happy with!

People enjoy lenses based on very popular internet culture, or references to older things that people massively enjoyed from a few months ago.

Being on the bleeding edge of what's popular online has allowed me to create content which is fresh but still relatable, which is a formula for success on Snapchat and the internet in general.

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Lens Stats: 2.2 million scans

Alfred: When I first started out I created the ‘Ugandan Knuckles’ meme lens with a friend of mine in math class. It has opened a lot of doors for me personally and has given me a large audience to work with, as both a creator and influencer.

What made it the most sharable was simply put timing. At the time, it was a wildly popular meme and the concept of creating Snapchat lenses was a new idea, so users kept sharing it.
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Being the first at creating viral content on a new platform gives great results. At the time of writing (May 2018) the Ugandan Knuckles lens is sitting at the #2 spot worldwide. While it isn’t the most impressive lens by today's standards, it was simple and usable enough to kickstart the platform into the thriving community we know today.

Lens Stats: 170 million scans

3. How can brands leverage AR to engage with their audiences?

Nick: Brands really need to research what people want to see in a lens. The most popular lenses are ones that allow the viewer to react to the lens. I'm not just talking about face filters either.

It needs to be something people can use to make a joke out of. The funnier it is, the more people will share it.

Benjamin: AR is a fantastic and fresh way to engage with people. Lenses were created for the Blade Runner 2049 film, which I feel is a good example of how you can promote a product/brand using AR. Being able to superimpose fun 3D models into the real world hasn't lost the "wow factor" which makes them so popular.

If a brand can combine this with bleeding edge internet culture without coming off as being too forced, then I believe your audience will come to you almost effortlessly.

Alfred: Creating immersive AR experiences could be a great marketing platform. Branded lenses in that regard hasn’t seen seen any widespread use, but in Japan the game Ingress has had multiple campaigns with branded portals (or PokéStops for Pokemon GO players).

The key to making AR advertising is making it go viral.

Creative artists that understand the platform, the right distribution channels and timing is key.

The ideal solution is something similar to the existing face lens platform from Snapchat themselves. But community creators would also be a great fit as I personally think the content produced in-house by Snapchat has a certain feel to it and doesn’t always feel unique.

4. What do you think is in the future for AR on mobile?

Nick: I personally believe that dating simulation type games could really take a stronghold on AR functionality. Memes have also proven to be very popular for AR.

Benjamin: It's only going to get more immersive and more popular. AR video games are becoming more popular, and was one of the factors to the massive popularity of Pokémon GO.

With hardware projects like Microsoft's Hololens and Google Glass getting a lot of interest but being inaccessible because of the price, current mobile AR is the next best thing and is accessible for free, to everyone with a smartphone.

Alfred: I think AR has a great future. With the release of mobile & triple A gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch, there is definitely a market there with a lot of consumers willing to pay. Pokémon GO was successful because it was the first of its kind with a mass appeal. Once an OP which stands on its own is established, I think more companies will invest in the mobile AR market.

Antwan chose to answer all the above questions Snapchat style, in this video here:

His Blue's Clues filter:

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With the insane popularity of Pokemon Go, hype around AR wearables like the Google Glass and the smartphone AR capabilities in Snapchat, it's clear there is always demand from consumers for more cool, immersive experiences with technology.

With the democratization of augmented reality and its widespread accessibility via smartphone, above all connecting people with similar interests, this 3D wave doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

But one thing is clear:

Embedding your brand within the right social context makes it inherently shareable on these social platforms.

Thank you to Nick (20), Antwan (17), Benjamin (17) & Alfred (18) for their contribution to this article.

To learn how you could create a viral Snap lens for your brand on Snapchat, ping us an email: [email protected].

Lillian Chan

Creative Strategist

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