Behind Lens Drop: Creator Spotlights

At Snap AR, you’d think we’re obsessed with innovative technology. While that’s true at a certain level, what we’re really obsessed with is seeing what kinds of immersive AR experiences creators in our community create with our tech. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and motivated to push what's possible with new Lenses until way too late at night. And, with more than 200 million Snapchatters around the world, we have more than enough inspiration to keep us going on a daily basis. And that’s what we’re here for: Inspiration. In case you hadn’t heard, we launched Lens Drop this September on Snapchat, a bi-weekly celebration of the innovative Lenses being introduced by talented Lens Creators.
To take it a step further, we wanted to give you an even deeper look into the brains behind the Lens, how they created it, and more importantly, why they created it. The goal is simple: To highlight the humanity behind AR. 
So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to two Lens Creators who’ve dropped incredible creations on us in the past few weeks—Pradeepa Anandhi and Hart Woolery. Check out our interviews with them below and be sure to test out their lenses while you’re at it.
Pradeepa blew us away with her Animal Print Dress Lens, designed specifically for New York Fashion Week, using our Body Mesh Feature. As a professional Lens Creator, she has some great insights for using Lens Studio and getting your creative work out there. Here’s our conversation with Pradeepa Anandhi:
SNAP AR: How’d you get into creating Lenses? 
Pradeepa Anandhi: I’m a Snap Lens Network member and creative technologist. I started my career as an AR Engineer, where I developed applications/activations for brands like Saffron Aviation, Punjab Kings, Singapore International Airlines, and more. Two years back, I shifted my focus completely to the social AR space and since then, I’ve developed 40+ personal Lenses, and more than 20 social AR Lens/Effects for global brands like Pepsi, Gatorade, Jamaica Tallawahs, Speedo, and more. 
Why did you start using Lens Studio?
Back in 2020, I found Lens studio and was amazed by the technical capabilities offered
by Snap AR. Before that, I hadn’t seen advanced tracking technologies like body tracking, body mesh, ground segmentation, and sky segmentation working seamlessly in mobile. The tracking stability was unmatchable with any other AR software development kits (SDKs) or engines that I have previously used for my AR creations. It opened up a lot of opportunities for me and that’s why I started creating social AR lenses using Lens studio.
Let’s talk about Animal Print Dress for a minute. What a killer Lens! 
I wanted to develop a fashion lens that helps users unleash their wild side and, at the
same time, be up to date with current trends. This inspired me to go with an animal prints style because they’re synonymous with the desire to escape—to experience the energy of exotic lands and their environments. Plus, animal print costumes never go out of fashion. They will forever be classic. New York fashion tends to be driven by classic silhouettes and styles, and my animal print concept aligned perfectly, so I created this fashion lens with four animal-themed costumes for New York Fashion Week. 
How do you want to continue to innovate using AR?
When I was working as a mobile AR engineer, I had a lot of advanced AR experiences and game ideas in my mind. But, most of them were limited by the technical abilities of the SDKs and engines that I used back then. I dreamt of having advanced capabilities like body tracking, hand tracking, semantic segmentation, and object tracking to develop more rich mobile AR experiences. 
By the time I found the Lens Studio, it offered more than I expected. I started playing with Lens Studio and started bringing my crazy AR project ideas to life. It opened up the possibility of reaching millions of users with AR creations, which was very difficult before. Now, there are two areas where I would like to continue to innovate.   
First, I want to continue with experience enhancement: Seamlessly blending AR experiences with the user's physical world and immersing users into AR games with motion-controlled gestures, shaders, VFX, and more. My other focus is storytelling: Using AR as a tool to help people to tell stories about themselves and at the same time helping brands to tell their stories via AR. For brands, instead of slapping on a logo, I want to focus on contextually integrating brand stories inside the experience. 
What advice would you give to others looking to create new Lenses?
Don’t judge or criticize your own AR creations, or you will never create anything. Just
launch it! See what happens. Set deadlines for your personal projects. It’s easy to get trapped fine-tuning a personal project for months. Choose a lens with a holiday theme so you're forced to finish it before the holiday. 
Other than that, hone your skills to the smallest detail. Continue to explore various aspects of AR's production pipeline such as interactive programming, interaction design, 3D modeling, VFX, shaders, and continue to create memorable AR experiences.
In such a fresh industry, it’s rare to meet a veteran Creator, but that’s exactly who Hart Woolery is. He’s one of the minds behind 2020CV, a boutique firm that specializes in AR, machine learning, and computer vision. Learn about his interactive Lens aptly called “I Am Feeling It” and get Hart’s advice for pushing your craft to new heights. Here’s our conversation with Lens Creator Hart Woolery:
 
SNAP: How did you find your way into AR?
Hart Woolery: I’ve been into creative software development for a long time, having built my first graphical experiments in the early ’90s. I’ve continued to learn how to code throughout the last three decades, both as a hobby and professionally. I started my company, 2020CV, in 2017 with the goal of pushing AR to new limits through machine learning and computer vision. This led me to SnapML and Lens Studio, which turned out to be a great environment to prototype new ideas.
Speaking of new ideas, can you run us through your Lens “I Am Feeling It”?
After playing with Upper Garment Segmentation for a bit, I thought it might be fun to make it more interactive. Many of the Lenses I had built in the past relied on using your hands to interact, so that was a natural place to start. I decided to create a distortion effect to a grid of cubes to add an element of depth to the interactivity. I built this Lens in just a few hours, so I was surprised to see the positive response online when I shared a video.
I started using Lens Studio because it offered a much quicker path from idea to prototype. Previously, it would take me months to develop a native app start-to-finish including custom ML models. It also required a lot of the same boilerplate code to handle things like recording video, which Lens Studio handles for me. “I Am Feeling It” is a great example of this in action.
Lens Studio is widely regarded as an industry leader, and the other platforms seem to be lagging behind a bit. Snap AR adds features faster than I have time to fully explore them, which means I rarely encounter “writer’s block” when it comes to developing new content.
What advice would you give to others looking to create new Lenses?
First, be creative. There are so many untapped ideas made possible by using Lens Studio features. Combine them in new ways! Second, keep it simple. The more elaborate the Lens, the smaller your audience becomes.  Ideally, little or no instructions are needed. Third, don’t be afraid to learn scripting, no matter your programming skill level. It’s the most powerful tool in Lens Studio, in my opinion. Check out the template scripts and learn from them.
Where do you see AR going in the future?
One thing I think is very interesting about AR is that pretty much anyone can understand how to use it, no matter their age or what language they speak. That accessibility gives me a very large and diverse audience to create experiences for, which I love. I consider myself somewhere between an engineer, artist, and comedian, and I think my Lenses reflect that. The constant challenge for me is to create something novel, entertaining, and (sometimes) aesthetically pleasing in order to bring joy to that audience. 
This is just the beginning of Lens Drop, and we can’t wait to see where it goes. As both Pradeepa and Hart pointed out, there are endless possibilities for creativity through Snap AR tools such as Lens Studio and the core of that creativity exists within our community. We’ll keep you up to date with some of the most exciting innovative Lenses out there and the even more exciting creatives behind them. Until then, enjoy more fashion-related Lenses from our monthly round-up.