We’ve made the case in the past that TikTok is AR’s sleeping giant. That was before it launched a creator platform in Effect House (which we also predicted). Back then, it had massive global reach and engagement but relatively underbaked AR, primarily developed in-house.

But with an AR platform, like Snap Lens Studio and Meta’s Spark AR, TikTok is now able to scale its AR activity by crowdsourcing lens development to legions of creators. And it’s not just about volume but creativity: The tools are now in the hands of far-flung creators to run with.

That’s precisely the AR inflection point we’ve seen historically with the above platforms. In fact, Snap now boasts 6 billion daily lens engagements. That’s the equivalent of one lens engagement per human on the planet per day. It owes this to Lens Studio, plus ongoing AR investment.

So the question is if TikTok can reach a similar milestone. It certainly has the reach, but it’s a question of priority and execution. For example, AR has been a north star at Snap, baked into its DNA as a camera company, and CEO Evan Spiegel’s contention that AR is its future.

Is TikTok AR’s Sleeping Giant?

New Directions

Some of these questions were tackled at the recent AWE USA, where a panel of real-life TikTok AR effects creators shared their learnings and success factors. What does it take to gain traction and go viral with TikTok effects? And how does that differ from Snap and Meta?

Starting with what makes TikTok different than other AR vehicles, the app has a unique use case that could take AR in new directions. For example, its co-creation ethos – seen primarily in its Duets feature – engenders AR lenses that evolve and morph progressively as they’re shared.

Given that dynamic, even lens creators are surprised by what other TikTok users end up doing with their creations. One example is the “What kind of pet would you be” lens created by panelist Paige Piskin. It inspired TikTok videos of users/artists drawing themselves as that pet.

Another thing that provides new creative capital for AR on TikTok is the popularity of randomizers as a format. These display a graphical box above a user’s face, which rapidly cycles through several quirky designations before landing on one. The results are often comical and sharable.

One thing this says about AR effects on TikTok is that advanced AR that dimensionally integrates with scenes (a.k.a., SLAM), isn’t required to gain traction. The name of the game is rather to engender simple fun and whimsy. Indeed, randomizers are just a simple box-shaped overlay.

How Much Money Do Lens Creators Make?

Rapid Prototyping

As for advice from the panel for aspiring TikTok AR creators, start experimenting and poking around. It’s all about trial and error and finding your “voice” on the platform. Also, practice rapid prototyping. Don’t make every lens perfect… just get it out there and learn from the feedback.

The panel also notes that there’s real money that can be made in lens creation (like with Snap). So if it’s an activity for which you discover talent and affinity, double down and create lenses that will get brand marketers’ attention. The next step is getting hired to build sponsored effects.

Looking forward, the panel agrees that the value of AR will amplify when it’s hands-free. In other words, consumer-viable AR glasses will unlock more lens utility and breathe new life into developers’ creative ideation. That could take a while, so creators have plenty of time to practice.

See the full session video below and stay tuned for more XR Talks every Friday… 

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