This week, Snap rolled out the long-awaited “Custom Landmarkers” developer tool for creating AR experiences anchored to geographic locations. To showcase the tool, five locations around the world already have their own Custom Landmarkers created through partnerships with early access developers.
The Road to Custom Landmarkers
In 2019, Snapchat rolled out the original Landmarkers program consisting of 3D models of 30 highly-photographed locations around the world. Lens designers could then access these 3D models to build their own experiences around the physical locations.
The following year at the 2020 Snap Partner Summit, the company released “Local Lenses” which were among the first multi-user real-time AR effects. This and other updates that year developed the ability of the Snap Camera to learn about the environment in real time rather than relying on asynchronously collected data as Landmarkers had.
Last year, Snap ramped up the creation of location-based AR lenses in collaboration with partners like Sotheby’s and the LA County Museum of Art. At Lens Fest, toward the end of last year, “the camera company” teased a tool that would allow lens creators to create their own location-based effects. That tool is the new “Custom Landmarkers” tool.
The First Five Custom Landmarkers
It is a tradition within Snap to showcase a new tool by working with select developers ahead of time so that experiences made with that tool are available on the first day of launch. Custom Landmarkers is no exception. There are already five Custom Landmarkers around the world.
3D modeling studio Qreal incorporated their expertise to bring new life to an Asian American-owned bookstore in New York City, You and Me Books, in celebration of the Chinese New Year. In India, lens creator Pradeepa Anandhi brought the Havmor ice cream shop mascot to life.
The Charlie Parker monument in Kansas City got an AR makeover from lens creator Luke Hurd, who used the tool to incorporate spatial audio and images into the public memorial of a jazz legend. Another public space, Union Square in San Francisco, is now the home to an immersive experience telling the history of the Niantic ship from the XR visionaries at Novaby.
In LA, social AR agency BLNK built a lens around the Pink Wall that brings scanners to a musical experience centered around Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa’s song “Sweetest Pie.” The experience comes in conjunction with Megan Thee Stallion’s Snap original series “Off the Leash” as well as her “Into Thee Hottieverse” VR concert with AmazeVR.
How to Find Custom Landmarkers
AR lenses and effects made with the Custom Landmarkers tool will be visible on a creator’s profile and accessible via physical Snapcodes in the area the experience is anchored to. One day it might be nice if Custom Landmarkers were visible in the Snap Map, and that may happen eventually, but this wasn’t suggested in their blog post or press material shared with ARPost.
It could be that this friction is deliberate on the part of Snapchat. Press materials and the blog post place emphasis on ensuring that “the experiences creators make ultimately support the wellbeing of our community and improve the ways they relate to the world around them.” All lenses created with Custom Landmarkers are approved by a moderation team before going live.
While the Snapchat creator community is a predominantly positive space, there has been growing concern regarding the potential of AR experiences to cause real-world problems. Seen in this light, Snap should be lauded for its proactive measures to ensure that users have a safe and positive experience.
Building and Sharing With Snap
Snap still, humbly, calls itself a “camera company.” That company has created one of the largest social media sites in the world and it all did start with sharing images, usually of one another. While some social media platforms and users are criticized for perpetuating social pressures, Snapchat’s AR experiences increasingly bring us together back in the physical world around us.