AR goes mainstream

Ever since Pokemon Go, AR has been slowly but surely taking over social media. Everyone wants a piece of its promise, with some placing bigger bets on it than others as the destined future of the web.

On the surface, AR is all about novelty filters and amusing designs. But at the same time, the technology is disrupting many industries from education and healthcare to navigation and manufacturing.

With this increasing interest and investment, AR is evolving at an ever-faster rate. As we go forward, what’s interesting will be not just how these industries and our lives will be impacted by AR, but how AR will impact and change these industries and our lives.

As the place that’s built for sharing new trends and content, social media platforms are the perfect testing ground for AR. Here we’re going to take a look at two of the leading social platforms who’re heading the AR race to try get an insight into where this incredible technology might be taking us.

Spectacles 3 — Snapchat

After its first pair of cartoonish AR specs in 2016 created an initial buzz but then became a catastrophic flop, and its second more serious pair in 2018 didn’t do much better, Snapchat has released its third iteration: Spectacles 3.0.

At $380 a pop, the frames offer much more than just a face-mounted hands-free camera. You can still press a button to record up to 60-seconds of footage which automatically uploads to Snapchat Memories, but thanks to a second HD camera, that content can now be shot with 3D effects, filters, and lenses — adding things like lighting, backgrounds and floating hearts and exploding confetti into your selfies.

Snapchat has a whole division of its business dedicated to AR. But apart from looking much flashier, they’re not significantly different from its predecessors. That being said, with each pair shipping with a Google Cardboard knock-off so that you can view the 3D content using your smartphone, for Snapchat the goal is simply about allowing more people to create and experience AR content.

Spark AR — Instagram

Not one to let other platforms get ahead, Facebook has moved Spark AR on Instagram — originally Camera Effects Platform — out of beta and opened its development platform up so any developers can build and share augmented reality filters on the platform.

You can use the platform to create — without the need for coding experience — AR content for both Facebook and Instagram. From Bollywood accessories and face paint to lighting and supernatural effects, over one billion Instagram users used Spark AR, many creating styles and effects that are unique to their channels.

In its Effects Gallery, Facebook features “niche AR effects from up-and-coming artists”. The effects are proving to be most popular in Instagram Stories, adding another level of immersion and interaction to the experience. With also sound files and 3D objects to choose from, it’s no secret that Spark AR may be trying to be Facebook’s own version of TikTok.


Joe Hunt is a freelance writer from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, meditation, and everything in between.