It’s Earth Day, which means that nonprofits, individuals, and brands are making a concerted effort to raise awareness of environmental issues and how to change behaviors to reverse impacts of pollution, deforestation, and suburban sprawl, among others.

Leading the charge is Snap by stepping up to this challenge by using the augmented reality powers of Snapchat to illustrate problems we face across the planet.

Working in partnership with the AR/VR team at Google, Snap recruited Lens Studio creators to craft five interactive AR experiences using the Depth API in ARCore.

Three of these Lenses center on the effects of pollution on wildlife, particularly the dumping of plastics and other trash and the spilling of oil in our oceans.

In Saving Chelon by Aidan Wolf, you are tasked with guiding the titular sea turtle through a virtual underwater environment using a light controlled by the position of your smartphone. Depth API brings occlusion to the experience, enabling the turtle to swim underneath and over real-world objects.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The Plastic Pickup Lens by Lije Morgan also creates a virtual underwater scene populated by fish and pollution. As the timeline at the bottom of the screen progresses, more and more garbage appears amongst the wildlife.

(1) Saving Chelon, (2) Plastic Pickup, (3) Penguin Rescue. Images via Snap (1, 2, 3)

In Penguin Rescue by Daniel Pimentel, your job is to place a virtual penguin in a real sink and use virtual tools to clean oil off of it. As you step back, the penguin appears to sit in the sink thanks to occlusion from Depth API.

Finally, Indoor Forest by Shimenta and The Seed by Veronica Flint explore the issue of deforestation and the benefits of planting trees for the Earth and its population.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

Indoor Forest implores you to place trees in your space as facts about the topic pop up on the screen, while The Seed instructs you to swipe seeds into your environment and watch as they sprout up into magnificent trees.

You can try these Lenses yourself by scanning the associate codes embedded throughout this story. However, in our testing, Indoor Forest appears to be locked to Android devices.

(1) Indoor Forest, (2) The Seed. Images via Snap (1, 2)

In addition, Snap has collaborated with Verizon and artist Louis Masai Michel to build a Lens to tell the story of the National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to construct a wildlife crossing over US 101 in Los Angeles and save the cougar population, whose environment has been encroached upon by increased development in the region.

The AR experience also serves to showcase Verizon’s 5G network, which means you’ll need to be a Verizon customer with a 5G device to access it. Even then, Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G network is available only in parts of select cities, like Los Angeles. However, if are at the center of that Venn diagram, you’ll note the wider breath of virtual content that the 5G network is capable of delivering.

Augmented reality is often described as a new storytelling medium, and these Lenses serve as just the latest proof points. In these cases, each story is of the nonfiction variety, and the moral of each is we need to clean up our act.





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