TikTok Is Exploring Snapchat-Style AR Features

TikTok Is Exploring Snapchat-Style AR Features
Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE / Contributor, Getty Images

TikTok is reportedly testing out a new augmented reality studio where creators can experiment with new in-app features, including lenses and visual effects.

Social media consultant Matt Navarra first spotted the new toolkit, known as TikTok Effect Studio, on Aug. 14. TikTok confirmed the new features to TechCrunch on Monday, stressing that the platform is so far just an early “experiment,”which means that it could potentially not even make it to launch.

Effect Studio is currently in private beta testing in a few select markets, including the U.S. On a landing page for the new studio, users are invited to “sign up to be among the first to get access when we launch,” and are then prompted for things like their name, email, TikTok username, company, level of experience building for AR, and any links to portfolios or effects they’ve already created. Interestingly, the form also asks users whether they’re operating a Mac or a PC, which could indicate that TikTok isn’t yet sure how to build out its tools to best serve interested developers.

The new website will enable creators and developers to build a community around the creation of new experiences and features that can be applied to TikTok’s short-format videos. Several of TikTok’s key competitors, including Facebook and Snap, currently offer their own tools to allow developers more creative control over which effects appear inside the apps.

AR features have increasingly become cute, if somewhat gimmicky ways for platforms to attract new users of all ages, and some of TikTok’s best-loved effects — including the “glow look” beauty filter and the gender-swapping “blue and red” filter — have been spun out into popular trends on the app.

Facebook and Snap have seen similar successes with AR in recent years, and have allocated their resources accordingly: In addition to rolling out a $US3.5 ($5) million fund last year directed to AR Lens creation, Snapchat also debuted the fourth-generation of Spectacles — smart glasses with built-in AR displays — last May. Facebook has also made significant efforts to expand its AR platform in recent years, announcing during the F8 developer conference in June that it had amassed 600,000 creators across 190 countries, making it the largest mobile AR platform in the world.