Snap’s augmented reality isn’t just a theoretical future trend: It’s already a thriving part of the Snapchat experience, enjoyed by 250 million of its users daily. The reason why 250,000 developers, working everywhere from the concert promotion company Live Nation to New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, are able to create AR Snapchat “lenses” for that quarter-billion person audience is because Snap’s head of AR platform partnerships, Sophia Dominguez, ensures that creators get what they need. And the relationship works both ways: “It’s only through them that we’re going to help realize the future of augmented reality,” says Dominguez, who is responsible both for educating developers about what’s possible and ensuring that their input assists in shaping Snap’s AR roadmap.
Although the most familiar Snapchat lenses may be silly special effects—like turning a user into a rainbow-puking unicorn—Dominguez, who has spent her career popularizing virtual and augmented reality and wearable tech, is helping to build a developer community interested in using AR in increasingly ambitious domains, including education, information, and gaming. To this end, she’s helped roll out several tools in 2022, including Custom Landmarkers, which let third parties tie their Snapchat lenses to specific real-world locations, and Lens Cloud, a suite of cloud-based services for speeding AR creation.
A few hundred content creators also have access to the latest version of Snap’s Spectacles smart glasses, which incorporate dual 3D waveguide displays to weave AR right into the world people see before them. Consumers can’t buy these new Spectacles: Dominguez seeds them with developers to serve as an experimental test bed for AR ideas, while creators prepare themselves for the era when AR headwear might be a useful part of everyday life.