With Snapchat making the leap into the smartglasses realm, Facebook had to find a way to try and steal its competitor’s augmented reality thunder.

On Tuesday, the social media giant took the opportunity to fulfill its promise from this year’s F8 developers conference, as Spark AR for Instagram officially graduated from closed to open beta.

Spark AR is Facebook’s creator platform for AR effects that, like Snapchat’s Lens Studio, is designed to be easy enough for non-developers to use. According to Facebook, more than 1 billion people have used AR effects via Spark on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Portal.

Facebook also took yet another page out of Snapchat’s AR playbook with the addition of Effect Gallery, which serves the same purpose as Lens Explorer on Snapchat in that it gives users a way to discover AR experiences built via Spark AR.

Images via Facebook (1, 2)

To access the Effect Gallery, users can scroll to the edge of the AR effects tray and press the “Browse Effects” button. From there, users can browse stories shared by other users, try out the featured AR effects, and add them to their tray for future use.

It’s been a long road to open beta for Spark AR on Instagram. Facebook originally unveiled the closed beta at the 2018 edition of F8.

(1) Test Doll Optimized from Dvoshansky, (2) Love Machine from Marc Wakefield. Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

During Spark AR’s closed beta period, brands like Pepsi and Christian Dior took advantage of the augmented reality platform, while other creators, like Instagram product designer George Kedenburg III, created their own cool effects.

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“What drew me to Spark AR was this great feature set,” said developer Luke Hurd, creator of 30 AR experiences for the platform, in a blog post. “It’s on devices that everyone can use, doesn’t require headsets, and it has built-in shareability. Really, everything connected to the point where I thought, ‘I really need to be involved in this and figure out how people use this.'”

(1) Black Bubbles from Jagmeet Singh, (2) Mainframe from NR30 member Tom Emrich. Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The fight for the hearts of creators is the latest front in the AR war between Facebook and Snapchat, which began when Facebook basically copied the AR effects that Snapchat made famous. (But really, for all practical purposes, the war really started when Snapchat turned down Facebook’s acquisition offer).

In its efforts to cultivate its own developer community, Snapchat introduced a number of new features at its first developer conference and ran promotional events with Nike’s Jordan brand and the John Wick film franchise this year.

Now, with yet another outlet for Spark AR creators, Snapchat might need to redouble its community relations efforts before Facebook makes its own jump into the smartglasses game.





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