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Creating engaging experiences in Spark AR

Augmented Reality (AR) has been around since 1968 when Ivan Sutherland, a Harvard professor and computer scientist, created the first head-mounted display called ‘The Sword of Damocles.’ But it wasn’t until 2017 that it would skyrocket in popularity when Facebook debuted a free software suite for brands and creators to build customized AR experiences. Just three years after its launch, it’s estimated that more than 1 billion users have personally engaged in an AR experience, commonly referred to as “filters” or “effects,” created with the free software, Spark AR.

When executed effectively, AR can offer more shareable, memorable and engaging experiences than traditional media and advertising. This is especially true now as brands are limited in the ways they can reach consumers, who have been dutifully staying at home amid social distancing guidelines. We’ve found from our own research that the best AR applications for brands walk the line between educating and entertaining consumers about products and services.

The pandemic has had some effect on the AR ecosystem. In early March, Instagram blocked COVID-19 AR filter searches on the platform to help combat the spread of misinformation and to be sensitive to the severity of the situation. Despite the block on those search terms, brands still have a unique opportunity to make a splash on consumers’ devices, while being mindful of the new Stay-At-Home normal.  Many brands have been using AR to make life in isolation a little easier for customers, whether by keeping their kids entertained, providing them with content to share in their social circles, making AR portals for virtual tours, or by improving the e-retail experience through Augmented Reality product testing.

For a closer look at the process of creating an engaging AR filter, we chatted with Max Hartz, Director of Digital at Scoppechio. “We’ve developed a lot of different types of engagements using Spark AR. For some of our clients, we focus on the idea of “webrooming” where we utilize AR to help people interact with products and features in engaging ways. Sometimes we make AR filters designed specifically to entertain the followers of the brands we serve. Ultimately, our most successful experiences tend to be a combination of all those objectives: entertainment, engagement and education.”  

Most AR experiences require the custom creation of 3D assets. Brandon Clements, Immersive Experience Lead & Technologist at The 3, explains, “It all begins with digital clay, which we sculpt and model into environments or virtual objects (and often rig for animation) using outside software programs like Blender and Cinema4D. It’s also common for clients to send us existing 3D assets, like CAD files from their engineering teams, which we reconfigure and export as lightweight models for use in Spark. Incorporating a super-detailed 3D environment or element can really take an AR experience to the next level.”

After the team at The 3 creates any needed 3D objects, the developers at Scoppechio import them into Spark to finalize the construction of the experience and the creative concept. “Between Snapchat Lenses and Instagram filters, most social media users have some familiarity interacting with AR,” says Stephen Childress, Chief Creative Officer. “But from a creative and development standpoint, we always strive to design interactions that are as intuitive as possible. Spark makes this relatively easy by accepting a variety of common user inputs like screen and object taps, facial gestures like smiles, and more. And since we design with our end user in mind, our clients have seen great engagement and results from the AR experiences we’ve built.”

Spark AR is proving to be a feature-rich, community-driven application that’s growing more advanced with each near-weekly update. At the OvareGroup, we take a collaborative approach to building AR experiences for clients that are relevant and engaging. You can see some more of Scoppechio’s AR work here by scrolling down to the carousel. To see examples of our 3D creations, visit The3Productions.com.

Try the donut filter on Instagram or try the filter on Facebook.