AR in Advertising: The New Era of Interaction

Connection to audience has always been fundamental in the creation of a brand message. The link between brands and their audience is what creates brand loyalty—people buy things that align with their personal values and that they feel an emotional attachment to. That’s what keeps them coming back. However, what that connection looks like has begun to shift. Augmented Reality (AR) is changing the way brands can interact with their fanbases in an unprecedented way, and many brand juggernauts have already embraced paving the way for the new era of interaction.

Amazon

Amazon is known for taking risks and trying almost anything in order to get results, but their foray into AR is a decidedly calculated risk. They recently acquired Body Labs, a company that uses cameras to scan their users and report weight, size, and height. The implications of this save Amazon a lot of headache: consumers will not worry about their clothes fitting if bought online (the largest detractor by far for why people don’t shop online), and Amazon won’t have to issue as many refunds or track as many returns. From a business perspective, they’re addressing and eliminating reasons that consumers don’t buy their products and creating a better experience for when they do buy it, since the clothes will fit versus a disappointing or even frustrating return. This positive experience becomes associated with Amazon and drives the consumer to go back.

Entertainment Industry

Snapchat needs no introduction: they are one of the leaders for AR filters, lenses and games. This technology is still evolving, and so is the community centered around creating for it. They have, on average, 70 million users using AR lenses for 3 minutes per day. This is the perfect platform for brands in the entertainment industry (TV shows, movies, and personalities) to promote themselves and their brand. However, recently Snapchat has been moving into a new arena—ecommerce for ANY brand, thanks to a new feature called now Shoppable AR. Shoppable AR allows companies to actually advertise through Snapchat by redirecting users to a website from a lens. This could be a product page for merchandise, a trailer for a movie—any link on the internet is fair game. Forerunners of taking advantage of this include King, who promoted their famous game Candy Crush through an install button right in their filter, STX Entertainment, who had a trailer for their upcoming movie “I Feel Pretty”, and Blizzard Entertainment, who utilized a filter to promote their new expansion pack, Battle for Azeroth.

Exponential Growth

AR isn’t just entering the ecommerce industry, it’s redefining it. It’s providing its consumers the ability to directly interact with their brand, to become a part of it. That kind of inclusivity encourages attachment, which encourages brand loyalty. The brands that have found the greatest success don’t just appeal to their consumers, they engage with them and become a part of them, like a member of their family. They make their consumers feel good; AR provides an unprecedented engagement level on that front.

The data speaks for itself: AR has exploded in growth over the last year, and it’s not looking like it’s going to stop anytime soon. Augmented Reality companies have grown 50% since the beginning of 2018 across 290 prominent companies, according to The Venture Reality Fund. AR and VR companies have raised over $1.8 billion in funding and are only continuing to expand. And although AR started out small, like the Facebook and Snapchat lenses we’re all familiar with, it’s beginning to branch out at a rapid pace, continuing to be developed and supported by goliaths and forerunners who see and fully comprehend its value, and who know making an investment now will yield profits later.

AR is still an understated marketing tool for now, but that will change sooner rather than later. Instead of being behind on the trend, brands should take full advantage of what AR can offer and showcase their product in a way that gets consumers excited about it—and thus, drives sales up, up, up.


Building a Better Bee Beard

Building a Better Bee Beard

I’m Lahna 🤠

I’m primarily an AR lens programmer here at BTM, but I also help out with illustrations.

The decline in honey bee health is a very important issue all around the world. So for National Honey Bee Day we wanted to contribute our skills as a company to help the honey bee gain more attention.

The goal was to create Snapchat augmented reality lens that gave you a beard made of bees that flew off when you shook your head. This concept was an attempt to debunk the idea that a swarm of honey bees is a dangerous entity. Swarming honey bees are when they are most calm and passive since they have no home to defend. Which is why beekeepers have no fear when they show off a beard of bees! Also, it looks cool.

We thought of two ways we could go about it:

  1. Position so many bee objects around the face that it looks like they have conglomerated there into a natural beard shape
  2. Create a static, textured mass that resembled a beard and then cover it in actual moving bees to save on tri count.

We decided to start with plan A just so we could work on the head-shaking and bee navigation while our technical artist expertly modeled, rigged, and animated a bee for us to work with. We used spheres of the approximate size of what the bee object would be until she was finished.

 

Beard of proxy spheres

We whipped up a script to detect when a user was shaking their head and partnered it up with a system that monitored all bees and their states. This triggered random bees to fly off the face every time the user shook their head a certain number of times.

I was then sent the bee proxy to more properly craft the shape of the beard until the full textures and animations were complete. Substituting them back in took a long time because of a weakness of Snapchat’s AR engine that we didn’t understand — but would come to terms with later.

In order for the bees to appear more realistic when they are flying, we wanted to add a little flying loop as the come back to the face. So, we added a looping state in there as well.

Eventually, the animations were finished and it was time to replace all proxy bees with proper bee objects. This took an even longer time and we didn’t yet know why; each bee was just taking forever to select.

After trying to put a certain amount of bees on the face, the engine kept crashing. To the point where the project was un-openable.

We had well exceeded the suggested tri count for the engine, but it hadn’t stopped anything before. Other lenses were ten times over the allowed tris but worked fine.

We realized, however, the engine was worse when it came to an overload of the number of objects in the scene hierarchy. The engine could select an object on its own, but an object with dozens of children took a very long time to select…and because of the nature of the engine each imported bee was broken up joint by joint into their own objects.

So it was time for plan B. We made up a beard-shaped object but no matter how hard we tweaked it it just couldn’t look right because the surface needed to be covered in bees for it to be believable anyway. We remade the scene from scratch, using the old scripts. There were three kinds of bee objects:

- Static bees with very few tris, to make up the bulk of the beard

- Idly animating bees that never leave the face

- Bees with animations built in that let them take off, fly, and land

This set of solutions worked surprisingly well! And after that, we put an overlay filter and some sparkles on it and called it a day!

 

Final Bee Beard Effect!

 

Check out the finished result for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/beardofbees