A guide to Spark AR: Create and share AR effects

The idea of augmenting reality (AR) has been around for decades, but it’s only recently becoming an increasingly mainstream technology with tangible uses, from entertainment to marketing. The tools for building AR experiences are constantly developing, and now platforms such as Spark AR Studio are bringing easy-to-create AR to the social media generation. 

Here, Lorna Burrows, Head of Content at Immersive Studios, takes a look at how Spark AR is changing the face of augmented reality. For other useful kit for your web design toolbox, see our roundup of the best web design tools around.

What is Spark AR?

Spark AR

Spark AR is now open for all to try (Image credit: Spark AR/Facebook)

Spark AR is a studio tool from Facebook that allows users to create their own AR effects for mobile. First launched in 2017, Facebook continues to add capabilities to the platform – most recently, adding in analytics for Instagram and Facebook campaigns. Compatible for Mac and Windows, the AR platform is comparable to tools such as Sketch or Photoshop – only this is for augmented reality. 

Prior to this summer, anyone could use Spark AR Studio to create custom AR effects, but if you wanted them to go live on platforms such as Instagram, you had to belong to the beta programme. However, now everyone can have a go at creating their own AR effects and publishing them online.

What can Spark AR do?

Spark AR

Spark has a host of features and learning guides (Image credit: Spark AR/Facebook)

Spark AR enables you to create your own AR effects for mobile using a suite of tools – from patching to animation. What’s more, you don’t have to be a technical genius to be able to use it. It allows you to: 

  • Create your own AR effects, with or without a technical background 
  • Import your own 3D files and sounds 
  • Build with or without code 

With a host of features and learning guides, it’s a good tool for professional creators (such as studios like ours), as well as personal users. For example, Spark AR enables you to insert your own 3D objects into a project, change their properties and add interactivity, logic and animation. However, if you don’t have your own 3D models, Spark AR provides a vast range of ready-made 3D objects in the AR library. 

Why is this important?

Spark AR

AR technology is becoming more accessible and fun (Image credit: Spark AR/Facebook)

Platforms like Spark AR demonstrate how mixed-reality technology is becoming more mainstream – more accessible, useful and fun. Spark AR enables you to create anything from a face filter to interactive AR games, and social media gives it a wide-ranging audience. Meanwhile, the importance of marketing via social media goes without saying. Instagram has over 500 million daily users and is ever-growing in popularity, with advertisers reporting four times as much engagement on Instagram as Facebook.

Spark AR enables brands to be both more creative and more engaging, while taking advantage of detailed metrics, including total impressions, captures and shares – giving insights into how their audience responds to AR. At Immersive Studios, we’ve been creating AR experiences for clients for over four years now and tools like Spark are both significant and exciting in that they are bringing AR quickly and easily to the mass market. It shows how the technology is evolving – both in terms of ease and capability, as well as audience and user demographic – meaning AR is naturally becoming more widespread. 

Spark AR is an efficient and versatile way to create AR experiences and it widens the playing field – allowing anyone with an interest in AR to access essential functions. For us as a business, it gives us more tools for our arsenal. For those interested in visual effects and 3D experiences, it gives you a platform to explore for yourself.

This article was originally published in issue 253 of 3D World, the world's best-selling magazine for CG artists. Buy issue 253 or subscribe to 3D World.

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Head of Content at Immersive Studios.