A key element for sustaining Instagram’s future and securing a stronger competitive advantage over other platforms such as Snapchat is going to be through the release of their new Instagram AR filters, providing users with new filtered experiences. These Instagram AR filterss mix the real world with the virtual world through the combination of technology and visual art. Spark AR Studio is the open source tool that we use to create them.
Spark AR Studio by Facebook allows any user to create their very own augmented reality filters and effects which they can then distribute through the Instagram platform for their followers to use and share.
Maybe the term “augmented reality” (AR) seems like something from the future, something that you probably aren’t going to be using in your daily life anytime soon. However last year, around 1 billion people had some sort of experience using creations made using Spark AR. That’s quite an impressive number of people getting on board with augmented reality and these Facebook/Instagram filters.
The custom Instagram Stories are no longer limited to the really famous people and brands of the world like Travis Scott or Nike. Now every artist and brand of any size is able to create a viral moment on Instagram though their individual Stories.
In the following we will discuss the future of Instagram, the best practices for creating your own Spark AR effects and finally how you can use AR filters to get more follows.
What is Spark AR Studio?
Spark AR Studio is an open source augmented reality platform for Mac & Windows. It allows you to create AR effects for Instagram and Facebook. You can think of it like Photoshop or Sketch, but for AR.
Augmented reality (AR) has been around since the 1960s – despite what you might think it really is not a new technology. However, over the last few years its growth has been exponential, and it has spread across dozens of industries. Today it can be found simply everywhere from Pokémon GO to Google Maps.
AR has blown up quite a lot because of social media too and a big part of this success is because of the recently released Instagram and Facebook camera effects.
Instagram and Facebook is the perfect medium to spread augmented reality to the masses. It has an extremely user-friendly UI and people are constantly searching for new ways to share their fun and increase their engagement. With over 500 million users active daily, we’re not surprised that their growth has been so rapid.
Previously these AR camera effect we’re only available on the SnapChat platform, but in 2017 Facebook decided to launch its own software that brands, and designers could use to create customized AR effects. This was a very key strategic decision as this was one functionality that SnapChat had held over the Instagram platform.
Upon initial release if you wanted your custom AR effects for Instagram you had to be accepted as part of their closed beta program. It just wasn’t open to everyone. Luckily for us and everyone involved it is now completely open and anyone or any brand can now create their own Spark AR effects and publish them to both Facebook and Instagram.
This is a fantastic opportunity for artists, brands, influencers and everyday people to get creative, learn how to bring their imagination into reality through AR and share it with the world. Despite its enormous potential and also its speedy growth, AR on Instagram is still massively underused as a marketing tool.
Because of this it’s a huge opportunity for businesses to get involved ahead of the curve and to find cool ways of using the technology to build and share their own branded AR experiences.
How businesses can use Spark AR Studio
There are many reasons why AR should be viewed as a genuinely powerful marketing tool and one of the biggest has to do with the freedom of creativity.
There are a lot of applications out there for this technology: cosmetics brand for example can use AR to let their followers and potential customers “try on” their products virtually. Furniture brands can use AR to show the followers how their products would look like at home. Fashion brands can create a virtual fitting room and let their followers try on shirts or sunglasses for example, to see how they fit.
There’s also an emotional value that comes with AR experiences. Businesses can build a personalized connection with their customers by creating different kinds of AR effects that give a firsthand experience of the brand or product. This helps to increase brand recall and loyalty, but it also is going to help drive more conversions!
Currently Instagram is baking this try on feature into the platform too. Instagram is beta testing a new feature right now that will allow brands to add AR effects to their product pages! Users will soon be able to virtually “try” products before making a purchase directly through the app.
Right now this feature has only been tested with a few brands like Ray-Bans, but this is certainly a feature that they will be opening up to more brands in the very near future.
It’s not just about ecommerce and virtual try on functionalities, businesses also have a lot to gain from simply sharing these AR effects, as they are highly popular amongst users and have considerable viral potential themselves.
Adidas for example decided to create a custom AR effect that added a nostalgic VHS look to your IG stories, including a “glitch” effect. There was no real sell here, vintage filters and retro looking photos were trending on Instagram, so Adidas thought it would be a clever way to engage their audience with something that would be both appreciated and well received. All this sentiment just adds to the brand and the virality increases awareness.
AR filters are a clever tactic that can be deployed for building brand awareness and increasing social engagement. The effects Adidas created were super shareable and very on trend.
Instagram has a system by which the filters and effects are locked unless the user is following the account. So as a result any creators of these AR effects have gained thousands of followers after sharing them on the Instagram platform.
This process of finding those exclusive filters on Instagram is slightly different now. Instagram has introduced their new gallery of effects, which makes it way easier to discover unique effects from the community! When you visit a creator’s profile, you can browse and access all of their custom effects by clicking the new effects tab over their feed. We’ll explain more about this later!
Here are some examples of how you can use Spar AR Studios to create branded experiences using Instagram camera effects:
#1: Instagram AR filters for online shopping
Instagram has created a new shopping environment which includes various new shopping features, pretty successfully. Some products just can’t be described that well with photos or video and now we have a new tool for allowing the consumer to experience a product online.
Kylie Cosmetics is a great example that most people have heard of to some capacity. When you select the AR effect by Kylie Cosmetics you can “try on” different lipsticks from the Lip Kits like Candy K or Glitz. This way you can see if the shade suits your skin tone before you buy it.
This is a perfect example of how you can use custom AR effects on Instagram. It’s not only fun to use these kinds of filters, but it helps potential customers to decide whether or not to purchase an item.
The streetwear label Off-White made a decent amount of noise using AR when they rolled out an effect that allowed users to “try on” sunglasses from their collection as well as adding other effects like their famous quotation marks. This all happened ahead of last year’s Paris Fashion Week
#2: Instagram AR filters for publishers
Publishers have a lot to gain from creating their own AR effects too and they are already doing it.
Buzzfeed Tasty is an ultra-popular food channel that jumped into the AR arena last year. When you select the effect the slogan “Oh Yes!” floats and twirls on the screen.
This effect can be used in so many different contexts. For example, when you are sharing pics or vids of the meal you just made you can make your friends think that you are an absolute culinary pro.
But the best thing is that you don’t have to use it for food only. It’s generic and fits many different usage cases. The only thing limiting the humor factor is your creativity.
#3: Instagram AR filters for causes
Rihanna took advantage of the AR effects last year and created her own effect to promote the Diamond Ball and Clara Lionel Foundation. The effect adds a diamond headpiece to your selfie. This way businesses can use AR effects to raise awareness for causes they and their audience care about.
An eco-friendly cleaning supply company for example could create an effect for Earth Day or any other environmental holiday. So different companies could use AR effects to raise awareness for various different issues.
So, are you ready to jump in and create your own AR camera effects for your brand using tSpark AR Studio? Go check out our guide to help you get started with Spark AR Studio!
How to access custom AR filters on Instagram
There is a new way to find, try and explore new AR filters and effects on Instagram.
So, as we mentioned above you could only use the custom AR filters by following the creators on Instagram. Once you did that their filters would appear in your Instagram Stories camera.
But now the new profile layout simplifies the whole process a lot more! If you visit a creator’s profile, you will find a new effects tab above their feed. You can browse these effects and filters they created and use them by yourself.
When you tap on an effect, you can click on the option “Try It”.
This will open your Instagram Stories camera where you can try the effect right away.
By tapping the “save” icon in the lower right hand corner you can save the effect if you like it.
The effect will then appear in your own effects tray in the Instagram Stories camera. You can add it to any future stories from now on! By tapping the “Browse More Effects” button you can open the effects gallery and browse many different other effects created by the Instagram community.
You will find thousands of different AR effects and you can sort through them by category or topic! If you open the “Moods” channel for example, you can browse all the different effects that fall under that category. You can open the “Color & Lights” channel to browse effects that play with lighting. There is also a feed of selected effects from the creator community. It’s a bit like the explore page.
AR effects are still a really great way to gain more followers and advertise your brand even if you don’t necessarily need to follow a creator to get access to their effects anymore. Every time someone uses one of your AR camera effects, they are ultimately promoting it to all of their followers. So, it’s possible to create a snowball effect and go viral.
How to create your own Instagram Stories filters with Spark AR Studio
Spark AR Studio is now in open to everyone, so really anyone (e.g. brand, creator, influencers) can start creating their own AR effects for their Instagram Stories. It’s designed for anyone of any skill level regardless of your technical background or existing knowledge.
All you have to do is download the Spark AR Studio program and you can start building your own AR effects immediately. You don’t even really need any knowledge of coding to get started. Although some previous experience with unity or C# is definitely going to speed up the process, as well as providing more scope for more complex AR effects.
There are quite a few tutorials on the Spark AR resources page if you are completely new to the design process. You can start to learn the program from there and get creative with trial and error! Facebook also provides documentation and guides that explain the approval process and how to get your effects published.
If you’re interested in producing one of these effects but don’t have the time to learn how to create your own effect, we would be more than happy to assist you. We have created a number of AR effects for various different brands and have developed a deep understanding of how to push this new technology to achieve something truly immersive for your user.
After creating an AR effect, you can then publish it to your Instagram profile or share it on an Instagram Story. Followers who see it can select it and use it for themselves too. The effect always credits the uploader as the creator, we always supply the project files so that you can upload the effect yourself. We can also take care of this for you. It’s a very simple process and the approval is a lot quicker than it was originally.
If you want to learn some more about creating your own Instagram Stories filter or effect with Spark AR Studio you can check out some more of our blog posts!
Best practices for Instagram AR Filters
As powerful as AR effects can be, they do also require a fair bit of thought and planning.
We are showing you some of the very best practices to follow when creating these effects, according to the product manager of Instagram’s camera team, Cemre Gungor:
#1: Serve a real need
AR effects can be used to serve a variety of different needs. They can be designed to help people with a specific problem or to make a decision, and other times they are just for a bit of fun. Here are a few key ones:
Help people to express their aesthetic: Instagram is all about visuals and people want to share their personal aesthetic. Many effects help people to improve their photos or videos with elements of color, light or visual design.
Help people to capture what they are feeling, thinking or doing: Effects can often help to amplify someone’s emotions and perspectives. People on Instagram love to share what they are into and express themselves. Effects that “facilitate expressions” tend to do really well.
Help people to get inspired or to have a bit of fun: Sometimes people don’t really know what to share. In this case these effects can assist with this. People get a bit of inspiration and are given an easy way to create something interesting that they can share, even when nothing particularly interesting is happening.
Help people to make their friends laugh: Effects can help to add humor to completely everyday situations. Humorous content has a much greater chance of being shared.
Help people to be part of something bigger: Many people celebrate cultural movements or support different causes on Instagram. Creating effects that are fitting for those movements or causes, is a great way to build a larger more engaged audience!
#2: Get out of the way
AR effects that are re-usable are often the most successful camera effects on Instagram. People can continue to use them over and over again. An AR effect is meant to complement the users creativity and helps to make that the center of attention. When you do this well, people will use your effect over and over again and create something entirely new every single time!
#3: Keep branding to a minimum
Branded effects feel more like a “gift” if they resonate with the community. It’s really important to pick and choose which brand elements you want to include in your AR effects. You shouldn’t really include your logo as this may prevent approval, but you can definitley use branded colors or a visual design instead for example.
Facebook research has shown that users are not big fans of heavily branded elements in these effects, so that’s the main reason why it’s best to think of your effect as more of a gift.
#5: Think outside the box
There are some effects out there which are extremely shareable even though they haven’t really been made with repeat use in mind. They are usually very novel and fun.
Using Spark AR Studio for business communication purposes can be a really effective way of connecting with your audience and followers, building awareness and even going viral!
It’s also a great way to grow your account whether you decide to create some of your own effects or you use already existing AR effects in your Instagram Stories.
Now is the time to jump on board the AR train!
#4: Make it easy and fun
It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to decide if they are going to use your effect. So you have to get to the point right away!
Make the effects work with the front-facing and back-facing camera.
You can also make the effect work when there’s more than one person on the screen! SnapChat even have animal face recognition so we can imagine this will be part of Instagram’s next update.