After opening up its Spark AR platform on Instagram for all creators, Facebook is already expanding the platform's capabilities on its Snapchat killer.
On Monday, the company released version 76 of Spark AR Studio, which brings support for two new AR effect options for developers as well as other improvements for creating AR experiences in general.
Chief among the new Instagram AR capabilities is Target Tracking, Facebook's version of the Marker Tracking on Snapchat that turns posters, logos, and other 2D images into an AR canvas for creators to embed 3D content and other AR effects.
"Our goal is to bring world AR to as many people as possible, which is why expanding target tracking to Instagram is an important milestone. We're also making target tracking-enabled effects available across a wide range of high-to-lower-end mobile devices while still offering the best possible user experience. This will help ensure that users in any market can consistently access and enjoy Spark AR effects," said the Spark AR Team in a blog post. "While today's expansion of target tracking to Instagram is focused on static images, we're actively working on additional functionality, like multi-target tracking and moving target tracking, all of which will help open up new possibilities when using Spark AR."
According to a Facebook spokesperson, one advertiser has already had a chance to test the additional functionality. Starbucks used the advanced features for its AR experience on Instagram that delivers season's greetings in AR when users scan the 2019 series of holiday cups.
In addition, Spark AR creators can implement Native UI Sliders, which gives users a controller to adjust the impact (such as the size of objects or intensity of immersion) of an AR effect in real-time.
"By giving users more personalization and control, new capabilities like Native Slider will help creators build better, more engaging AR experiences on Instagram," said the Spark AR Team in a blog post.
Additionally, Facebook has added two other new features that make creating AR experiences even easier. First, Spark AR is gaining templates for common AR experiences, such as face masks, background segmentation, color filters, and 3D objects. Second, Spark AR now offers Actions, a set of shortcuts that bundles commonly-used sets of patches to reduce clicks in developer workflows. Finally, the new In-App Upload feature enables users to publish their creations directly within Spark AR Studio.
The new version of Spark AR Studio is available for download now on compatible Mac OS and Windows desktops.
While some of the usability improvements are likely to be welcome additions for developers, the new features for Instagram also address some gaps between the app and Snapchat. Brands ranging from Nike to HBO have deployed image marker-based AR ads using Snapchat's Marker Tracking. Moreover, the slider UI was a key component of Snapchat's new Time Machine Lens.
Since launching in a closed beta last year, Instagram has landed some high-profile advertising clientele, with Pepsi and Christian Dior among the brands that have taken advantage of AR effects for the app.
So while Snapchat and Instagram have several battlefronts between them in the war to win over advertisers, overall, it's AR has the potential to be the ultimate winner via increased competition in the space.