Snapchat: Snap! You’re it

From left: Arun, Renuga and Eswaran are now teaching students to create Lenses. — Photos: ExAR

You may already be aware that Snapchat has a community of collaborative creators who discover new ways of pushing augmented reality (AR) everyday.

You probably even have favourite lenses that you love to use, and keep going back to try out new ones.

But what you probably didn’t know, however, is that there’s a Malaysian official Snapchat Lens Creator.

Tech geek Eswaran Mohan, co-founder of ExAR Technologies, says it all started when he was in his third year at university and participated in an AR competition in which his team created a simple app that allowed people to try on outfits without going into the store’s changing room.

“It was called Virtual Fitting. Despite getting overwhelming positive response from users and winning second prize in the competition, we couldn’t really pursue this tech further as we had limited resources, and the team soon split up,” Eswaran shared in an interview.

“That’s when my best friend (now business partner) Renuga Nair suggested that we work on an online software that has a similar application. We researched and discovered Snapchat’s Lens Studio, and that’s how we got into creating Lenses as a team.”

Eswaran has since utilised Snapchat’s Lens Studio platform to create fun, AR experiences that are loved by many.

He also successfully turned his interest into a business, creating Sponsored Lenses for brands that are tapping into AR advertising.

But just how did Eswaran capture Snapchat’s attention?

He shared: “We were creating lenses almost every day. Renu and I would come up with weird and wonderful ideas and turn them into Lenses in minutes.

“We’d then ask our friends to try them out. Then Arun (Eswaran’s younger brother), the third member of our team who is a designer, came on board. One day, when I was looking for inspiration online, I noticed that people creating Lenses could apply to be certified as an Official Lens Creator on Snapchat’s Lens Studio,” he says.

“Back then, I didn’t really know a lot about the programme, but decided to fill in the application form and register us as a team. A few weeks later, I received an email from the Snap team requesting an interview!”

According to Eswaran, during the interview, the Snapchat team took time to understand their aspirations in Lens creation.

“It was certainly an open and insightful discussion, which eventually led to us becoming part of the Official Lens Creator community,” he says.

“This was one of the most memorable moments for me and my team. I remember calling Renu at 5am to tell her the news, and both of us started jumping in excitement!”

Eswaran says that they mostly work from a co-working space in Cyberjaya.

“As a social AR company, our focus is on creating AR experiences to be used on social platforms. Renu and I usually plan out a few Lens ideas in advance and prepare our storyboards,” he says.

“She then creates the images that we need for the Lens while I focus on the technical aspect of creating the experience. Most of our heavily-designed Lens ideas are then sent to Arun a week before creation.”

Eswaran describes his team as a “trio of creative thinkers”.

“Renuga is the lead creative, and comes up with all the crazy ideas as well as the 2D drawings. Arun creates the assets.

“He works closely with Renu to design the 2D/3D models or animations that best convey our central idea,” Eswaran explains.

“At the end of the production process, I assemble the idea and the assets using Lens Studio. My job is to make the idea come to life and allow people to have an awesome experience.”

“We also have some Malaysian-themed Lenses lined up as we are very focused on creating Lenses that reflect Asian culture and resonate with a younger audience. One such Lens is the Boba Tea Lens which got almost half a million views within a week!”

Eswaran and his team have also started teaching students how to use Lens Studio, adding that they would like to build a community that thinks beyond its limits.

“When we were still studying, we were not exposed to technologies like this. From our experience, we would like to get our community up-to-date with what’s happening around us and the opportunities that it presents,” he says.

What advice does Eswaran have for others who’d like to use Lens Studio to bring their own creations to life?

“Practice. We were not coders and designers initially. Renu has a degree in pure chemistry while I’m a mechatronics engineering graduate. Arun is still in his third year of university studying Industrial Design! Everything that we do now was achieved through a lot of trial and error,” he says.

“All you need to have is the willingness to learn and the commitment. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier.”

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