By combining augmented reality with your customizable captions, Snapchat hopes you’ll share more from birthdays and weddings while earning it a little money. Today Snapchat launches Custom Lenses, expanding its 2016–launched on-demand geofilter program so you can make temporary, geofenced AR effects that people can add to their Snaps at a special event.
Users choose from 150 templates that add animal ears, sparkles, or the Snapchat dancing hot dog to their face from the Create-Your-Own-Lens maker on web and iOS. Then they add a custom caption like “Happy Birthday, Josh!” using Snapchat’s new fonts we scooped last week including Brush, Italic, Glow, Gradient, Rainbow, Fancy, and Old English. Then they select the geofence where the lens will be available on a map, select when it will be available, and pay depending on how long and widely it’s available with prices starting at $9.99.
Snapchat tells me the pricing is designed to be both affordable enough for the masses so custom lenses generate revenue, and to deter spam and flippant use of the platform. But the real opportunity is for Snapchat to become the most unique and fun way to share from special occassions. It hopes that if you equip guests with a pre-made custom lens, they’ll use it instead of fiddling with creating their own special effects on competing apps like Instagram.
To be clear, you’re not designing or coding your own AR experience. Developers who want to do that and turn you into new animals can use Snapchat’s Lens Studio that launched in December. And if users just want to use the cool new fonts on random Snaps, they’re now rolling out on iOS and Android with a new system that formats text as a sticker so you can add multiple captions.
Lenses are now used by 70 million people a day who play with them for an average of over 3 minutes, which translates to 500 years of play time each day. The rainbow puke and dog-ear masks are what made Snapchat a cultural staple after-all. But since Instagram and Facebook added their own AR masks, Snapchat has been looking for ways to differentiate.
Back in April I wrote about how the physical world is too big for Snapchat to fill with augmented reality on its own, and there are too many ways to use AR for it to dream them all up by itself. It needed to crowdsource help if it was going to stay ahead of Facebook with its own AR Studio. Now between Snapchat’s Lens Studio for developers, Custom Lenses for users, and its newfound momentum after a blockbuster earnings report, Snapchat finally seems poised to fight back against its clones.