As we’ve covered in our Space Race series (and corresponding AWE presentation), one of AR’s opportunities is to augment the world in geographically-specific ways. Place-based relevance is a key value driver in everything from search to social media. The same will apply to AR.

In fact, this principle may apply even more to AR than other technologies, given that its inherent promise is to digitally enhance the physical world. Points of interest and businesses are a key part of that formula, similar to the value that drives real estate (location, location location).

Meanwhile, several tech giants are basing their AR road maps on this principle – from Google’s visual search and AR navigation products to Niantic’s “real-world metaverse” ambitions. Also on that list is Snap, whose Landmarkers, Local Lenses and Snap Map breed location-relevance.

Today, Snap takes the next step in that evolutionary path with Custom Landmarkers. This puts tools in AR creators’ hands (Snap’s M.O.) to DIY their own Landmarkers. It builds on the 30+ Landmarkers Snap has created, scaling the program to the extent of the inhabitable earth.

The AR Space Race, Part IV: Snap

Digitally Anchored

Going deeper on Custom Landmarkers, they’re being delivered today as a centerpiece of the latest update to Snap’s Lens Studio. This will involve a framework for Snap lens creators to scan a given location, then create a lens that is endemic to that place and digitally anchored to it.

The scanning happens for a few reasons. It helps developers create lenses that integrate contextually and dimensionally with a given place. It could also serve as a trigger for future lens activation. Once scanned, Snap can recognize that place and tee up the right lenses.

As background, this is a key concept of the AR cloud – a mesh of geo-anchored data that lets AR devices evoke the right content when and where relevant. But because it’s still an advanced concept, Snap is offering Snapcodes that creators can use to activate a Landmarker on-site.

Both approaches are important, Snap’s head of platform partnerships Sophia Dominguez tells AR Insider. While Snap is building out its own AR cloud for Landmarkers, Snapcodes provide a bridge that’s familiar to users. This bridge is analogous to the smartphone’s bridge to AR glasses.

Boiling this down to a practical example, a theme park can create Landmarkers all around their grounds and plant Snapcodes accordingly. These can both launch the intended lens and serve as a sort of nudge for users to pull out their phones and fire up Snap to see something cool.

Will the AR Cloud Underpin a “Real-World Metaverse?”

Statues to Storefronts

Speaking of potential use cases, one of the points in unlocking Landmarker development according to Dominguez is to crowdsource the discovery of new experiences. Again, this is aligned with Snap’s broader lens playbook which has vaulted it to 6 billion+ daily lens plays.

“Our approach has always been to turn over our AR technology to our community of more than 250,000 Lens Creators around the world through Lens Studio,” she said. “Now, AR creators and developers can build anchored, location-based AR experiences to local places they care about.”

And like the broader lens universe, the results will be both practical and whimsical. BLNK founder and creative director Michael Nicoll tells us he’s been working with Custom Landmarkers to create geo-anchored artistic fare around LA – think virtual street art with an interactive kick.

But Nicoll’s goal is to bring this flavor of lenses to his entertainment clients. There, it can open up a new dimension to any marketing mix. This could include everything from consumer brands to recording artists, to lens activations at venues like  Staples Center Arena.

It also brings to mind multi-location brands – the Subways and Chic-fil-As of the world. As it goes with mar-tech, brands jump in before the long-tail SMB segment. But the latter could be where the scale is, letting SMBs spotlight their unique personas through storefront-anchored Landmarkers.

And the timing could be right given the advertising world’s flux. The combination of a pandemic and privacy reform (e.g. Apple’s ATT) has forced advertisers of all sizes to get smart on new alternatives. AR – and Custom Landmarkers as a subset – could be propelled by those tailwinds.

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