I'm starting to worry about Snap. I'm a die-hard Lens Studio creator, but now I'm having some doubts. Snap's layoffs have been all over the news, and if you're reading this newsletter I'm sure you are already familiar with them. The reason they have me worried is that Snap says they are restructuring to focus on "community growth, revenue growth, and augmented reality," but Snap laid off a lot of their biggest AR community builders.
Snap laid off Kaitlyn Benitez-Strine who played a huge role in building up the Official Lens Creator program which later became the Snap Lens Network. They also laid off Amir Alavi who was the face of many demos and tutorials from the Lens Studio team. Hardik Shah was a former OLC member and new AR community Manager for India. Guess where Snap is having a ton of growth? Guess where my biggest audience of people watching my Lens Studio tutorials are living? That's right, India. Of course there were plenty more people laid off who were contributing to the AR community - I'm sorry I can't list you all here and I'm hoping all of you are able to find jobs soon. And there are also some great people still working on the AR community at Snap, but there were some big losses and we definitely feel a void.
So how can Snap say community building and AR are two of their three focuses, yet lay off so many people integral to those efforts? Obviously I don't know the internal workings of Snap, but as someone in the AR community, Snap made some major missteps. Lens Studio is so nice to build in, but Web AR all of a sudden became a lot more attractive.
I was super excited to try out Effect House and I did build a couple of effects. My verdict is that it has potential, but even for a beta, it is a lot more lacking in features than I expected. Now there's still a lot you can do right now in it, but it felt like every time I went to do something I discovered that feature was missing. And I'm sure the features will come. My biggest wish is for them to add some scripting and that it not be that awful reactive programming that Spark AR uses. If they do go that route then hopefully they at least provide good documentation and plenty of examples and code snippets. I am a full time software developer by profession and I loath scripting in Spark AR. Please TikTok, don't screw up scripting.
I hopped into Spark AR again a few weeks ago after not touching it for a few months. Guess what? It was basically the same as last time. Effect House will probably pass it up after a couple version updates. Such a pity considering the whole "Meta" rebrand and Metaverse aspirations. I really don't think Spark AR is actively being developed right now.
I really don't care about it. I guess I actually anti-care because I'm bothering to write about it. I'm sure it'll be a great product and people will do cool things with it, but I really don't think AR glasses are an everyday accessory like phones or smartwatches. They certainly have niche uses, but in no future am I interested in wearing AR glasses all day every day. I don't need an infinite computer screen, I'm not going to type on an imaginary keyboard with no haptic feedback while out and about (and I'm not going to wear special gloves that simulate that), I don't want to use voice or gesture commands, I don't want to be bombarded with information. Just yesterday I heard an ad for Samsung's flip phone and they touted "browsing social media while on a call" as one of the great things you can do with the split screens. What are the ads going to be for mainstream AR glasses? Catch up on Netflix during your next family dinner? If you like the idea of AR glasses, please build cool things and not a dystopian future of screen enslavement.
I like making tutorials, so I spend a lot of time listening to other creators and trying to figure out what the pain points are in AR creation. There are the usual issues related to not knowing how to do things in the various software packages, but a common theme I'm starting to notice is a gap in knowledge of 3D as it pertains to AR. And I'm not just talking about beginners, I'm also talking about experienced 3D creators as well. As far as beginners go, they aren't familiar with 3D formats, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, animating, basically anything that goes into 3D creation. And that's to be expected from someone just starting out. But on the other end of the spectrum, the experienced 3D artists are often used to doing things differently for producing rendered images and videos and need to dial things back a bit to get their stuff to work in AR. 3D creation as it pertains to game development seems to be fairly close to the level at which AR currently operates, but even then there are feature gaps.
I'm a self-taught amateur 3D artist, so AR is the perfect fit for me. The limits of what AR can handle are about at the limits of what I'm able to create complexity wise. I think 3D is going to become increasingly more important in AR and I hope that the trending filters/lenses on all the platforms start to include more 3D elements. I think I'm going to be making a series of tutorials that go over 3D asset preparation for AR in general. I'm not going to go into which buttons you need to push in Blender, but instead I'm going to explain what you need to do so that if you are a beginner you know which sorts of tutorials to look up. And if you are an advanced 3D creator I'll go over some of the feature gaps and things to watch out for.