Snap tests paid upgrades to popular AR lenses

Snapchat is experimenting with a new way for augmented reality lens creators to monetize their creations. The company is trialling a new feature that will allow creators to sell paid lens upgrades using Snapchat’s in-app currency.

Creators have flexibility in terms of “digital products” they can place in their existing lenses. According to Snap’s Sophia Dominguez, who leads the company’s AR partnerships with creators, it could be a new effect, new editing tools, or some other kind of “boost” in the lens that amplifies the impact.

For its initial launch, Snap chose to work with the creators behind some of the app’s most popular effects, such as the “potato lens” (pictured above). With unlockable upgrades, fans will now be able to use tokens to change the effect with different attributes like a magic wand or a police officer costume. Initially only available in Australia and New Zealand, only a handful of creators currently have access to the feature.

Snapchat’s augmented reality effects have been one of the app’s biggest draws for years, making use of multiple viral lenses. But until now, users had access to all these effects for free. Augmented reality creators hoping to monetize their work primarily relied on partnerships with brands that hired them to create custom lenses.

Dominguez says upgradeable lenses could be an important way for more AR creators to make a living from their work. It could also be lucrative for Snap, which is increasingly experimenting with its revenue streams. The company isn’t detailing in-lens sales arrangements with creators for now, but the company already monetizes email, which can also be used for game upgrades or tipping creators in the app.

Of course, it all depends on Snapchat users’ willingness to spend money to get special new augmented reality effects, which is not a sure thing. “We actually have no idea how this is going to go,” Dominguez tells Engadget. “We can’t guarantee anything, but we really hope their subscribers will support them, as this largely comes from our AR developers, and that’s also the revenue that goes to them.”

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