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User-generated content (UGC) for Augmented Reality (AR) — Social media

We talk about powering UGC for AR. However, these words may sound too abstract for most people out there. This article explains their meaning in plain English and dives deeper into the first example of how we are putting this in practice: social media.

Content for augmented reality

Before we dive into “user-generated content for AR” in particular, let’s first discuss what we mean with “content for AR” in general. Uniquely, AR involves two fundamental content components:

  1. The reality that you are experiencing.
  2. The digital content that you are bringing into it to augment it.
Separating reality (segmented in dark red) from the digital content that augments it (light blue), with Kim Kardashian’s popular selfie as an example

Where are we today?

Tools to generate content for AR have evolved massively in the last few years. Different solutions have emerged for different platforms. To get us started, in this article, we will focus on Social media AR.

Social media AR lenses by independent studios and creators, ANRK and Brielle Garcia

UGC for AR

That’s where Volu and its underlying technology come in: they enable the capture of real people (with their own unique aspects and movements) into AR content, simply using your smartphone.

Are we there yet?

While Volu has the potential to unlock UGC for AR, users can only enjoy their AR content in the app itself for now. To realise our vision, we are working to integrate with the best AR platforms so users’ content can be shared and enjoyed wherever they want. These are the remaining few steps to make this come true for social media AR:

  • File size: currently, a 5-second vologram (a piece of AR content representing a real person) may require around 30MB. AR lenses/effects are limited to a fraction of that. Different techniques will enable the reconciliation of these two. For example, as part of cutting-edge initiative inspired by Ignite, our friends at Repronauts found a way to massively reduce the size of a vologram thanks to their 3D post-processing pipeline. For now, as the process is not yet fully automated, we are doing so only for brands who want to bring their key people into AR content. However, this already proves that we are very close to overcoming the file size limitations.
  • Format: volumetric video (the format of Volu’s captures) is very new. As a sequence of static 3D models (in the same way a video is a sequence of pictures), you need a software component, called player, for it to be displayed (as there are specific “video players”). The limitation is that social media apps do not include such a player yet. So far, our work mostly involves the manual play of one 3D model after the other — not efficient, but it works. Using this technique, our friends at Makerlounge posted back in May 2019 the first Instagram effect with a real person moving in it. Technically, it was a very low-resolution version of one of our volograms playing 3D-model after 3D-model in a loop, but with their creativity and tech skills, it looked great!
  • Direct integration: while AR content can be created with a smartphone thanks to Volu, as of today, it still needs to be exported and manually imported into a lens/effect. Today, amazing creators like Studio ANRK are pioneering the integration of longer sequences of volumetric video (e.g., the small-size ones by Repronauts) into amazing lenses using Lens Studio. Artists/creators of their level will always be at the forefront, creating professional pieces for the most demanding clients. For more casual everyday content, we can’t wait to integrate our technology directly with social media platforms, so that any user can create their own AR lens directly with their smartphone!
Amazing Snap lenses through which Studio ANRK is testing the concept of bringing real people into AR content (look at those beautiful full-body effects 🤩). Vologram compressed by Repronauts.

I want to know more!

If you want to see the creativity that AR user-generated content is enabling, follow @getvolu on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Also, if you want to be the first to know about our progress powering this content revolution and the integration of Volu with AR platforms, including social media, you can subscribe to our Medium blog (the one you are reading) or follow us (Volograms) on social media: tw, li, ig, fb. Thanks for reading!

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Volograms

We capture people and bring them to AR/VR. Push your immersive experiences to the next level with volumetric video!