Snap today announced a new 2021 fund of $3.5 million that will be directed toward supporting Snapchat Lens creators and developers who are using the company’s Lens Studio tool to explore the use of AR technologies. The news kicked off Snap’s multi-day virtual event, Lens Fest, where it also announced an upgraded version of its Lens Studio software and revealed that Lenses made by the Snapchat community have now been viewed over 1 trillion times.

Snapchat’s Lenses have become a huge part of the app’s overall experience, especially now that development has been opened up to the wider Snapchat community. Today, Snap says there are tens of thousands of Lens Creators worldwide who have now made over 1.5 million Lenses to date.

Meanwhile, over 180 million people now interact with a Snapchat Lens every day — that’s up from just 70 million daily active users of Lenses when the Lens Explorer section first launched in the app.

The company wants to further invest in these community-made Lenses because they’re now driving the majority of the growth in Lens views among Snapchat users, where the top Lenses can climb to billions of views.

The new fund will build from Snapchat’s existing Creator Residency Program, announced at the Snap Partner Summit, which had allowed developers, creators and artists to apply for funding to make their Lenses. That program was focused on using technologies like SnapML, while two additional residency programs invested in areas like games, education and storytelling.

Snap says it will offer more details about how creators can tap into the new AR-focused $3.5 million fund sometime early next year.

Image Credits: Snap

In addition to the fund news, Snap revealed the update to Lens Studio (ver. 3.3), which adds new creator tools and workflows.

This includes a feature called My Lenses 2.0 for helping creators search and manage their own Lenses with a new tool. This lets them manage their Lenses in web browsers outside of the Lens Studio app, toggle between personal and sponsored Lens accounts, view their Lens status, set Lens visibility, as well as add tags, Scan Triggers, and Preview Videos.

The tool also introduces visual scripting which lets creators build complex logic for custom interactivity in their Lenses without coding. Other changes include improvements to compressing textures inside Lens Studio to help Lenses load faster and use less RAM; an updated Logger that will now group, filter and search messages; and a new Building Blocks feature that offers downloadable assets and helper scripts that help creators prototype, refine and add features to their Lens experiences.

Image Credits: Snap

Plus, the new Lens Studio adds several new templates, including a face morph templates that turn faces into 3D characters; a configuration template that uses UI widgets to create adjustable Lenses for shopping and try-on experiences; and a Tween template for building games and interactive experiences.

The Lens Fest virtual event will continue over the next three days, with sessions that focus on various technologies, like AR, Machine Learning, and LiDAR, as well as those about making Lenses successful, and other tips and tricks.

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