Smartphones give us a way to pass the time and connect while social distancing and living in isolation. When it comes to social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, more and more people are using augmented reality filters to solve entertainment and connectivity problems. Snap Inc’s Snap for Business reports that since more people began quarantining, time spent playing with Snapchat AR filters has increased by more than 25%.
Why Is Augmented Reality Use Increasing?
Augmented reality overlays digital elements into the physical world. On Instagram and Snapchat, these AR filters, which are also called lenses, let users take pictures and videos while augmenting their face, their surroundings, and even while playing minigames.
As more people began quarantining in March, Alper Guler, a Snapchat and Instagram influencer, says he has noticed an uptake in filter usage. Guler is also the Head of Product Innovation at a company specializing in creating lifelike 3D content optimized for augmented reality. One of Guler’s recent filters featured a realistic-looking spinning top totem inspired by the film Inception. In its first two days of release, over 500,000 Snapchat users tried the filter.
“A lot of people liked that filter because I originally shared it by acting like a guy who lost his mind from staying home,” Guler said. “Getting engagement in Snapchat is all about going viral. Right now everyone is at home and on their phones. Filters keep us entertained and sharing helps us stay connected. I’ve noticed an increase in engagement and my other allies in the influencer community have too.”
AR Filter Creators Weigh In
Over the past month, Snapchat influencer Cyrene Quiamco, better known as CyreneQ, observed an 11,365.3% increase in her Snap Camera play time. One of Quiamco’s lenses, which lets users virtually wear a hat made out of toilet paper rolls, received over 2248 days of playtime within its first few days of release. For a point of comparison, Quiamco’s typical filters get about 100 days of playtime when initially released.
Quiamco is a well-known influencer in the Snapchat community. She is the first non-celebrity Snapchatter to receive a verification status for her creator account and she has made several filters that have gone viral and received over 10 million views. Even so, Quiamco is surprised to see how the push for social distancing and self-quarantining has correlated with increased engagement with her Snapchat content.
In one Tweet from March 31, Quiamco wrote, “Woah, I guess everyone is watching Snapchat stories right now. I just hit 1 million views in only 8 hours. It’s really encouraging to see this engagement on stories in addition to my lenses. ????”
Caroline Rocha, who goes by the handle @frenchsinger, is an Instagram filter creator with over 100K followers. Rocha says the quarantine has not influenced her creative process, but more people are using her Instagram filters.
“Since the quarantine, I observed an increase in engagement…A huge one!” Rocha said in an interview over email. “People are bored, they need to interact with something and augmented reality gives us this opportunity. Funny filters and random filters (ex: ‘Who is Your Perfect Man?’) are the most used since the quarantine. The more interactive the better.”
Quarantine’s Impact on Augmented Reality Content Creation
With additional free time, Guler said he and his QReal team are using the quarantine to create cutting-edge AR content optimized for social media. Developers and designers at QReal are creating filters to push their creative boundaries and experiment with app updates and new augmented reality features.
“While staying at home, we’re trying to be creative as much as we can,” Guler said. “We did a toilet paper shooter. Now we’re working on a [filter about] how staying in quarantine ‘ages you’ because we cannot go to barbers or stuff like that—like you grow a beard.”
While stuck in her home, Quiamco says the challenges of isolation are boosting her creativity. In an attempt to take people out of their quiet homes and cramped apartments, Quiamco designed a Snapchat filter that takes photos from a person’s camera roll and turns them into an immersive 360-degree image. These 360-degree images transform into virtual backgrounds that remind users of their pre-quarantine days. As a verified Snapchat creator, Quiamco is doing what she can to help others make light of a negative situation.
“I feel like I have a duty to keep people entertained,” Quiamco said. “And I’m keeping myself entertained and also by doing that. I’m allowing people to have fun during this time. Being a creator at this time feels like you kind of have a purpose to keep people out to have fun.”Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Elena Piech is the Marketing Manager for The Glimpse Group, a platform company comprised of 9 unique VR/AR subsidiary companies focusing on B2B and B2BC solutions. She graduated with a degree in Emerging Media from Ithaca College and now lives in New York City. You can find her geeking out about how VR/AR technology will impact the way we think and learn.