His IG bio says ‘Ad nerd, New Media Artist, Instagram Filter Creator”. His AR effects show his great imagination and skill. Finally, his résumé proves his experience in using augmented reality in digital marketing. We’re happy to present to you our next amazing guest: Luke Hurd!
Hi Luke! Before we start asking questions, could you please tell us something about yourself and your work in augmented reality? How does your work as a Spark AR creator relates to your daytime job?
I’ve worked in advertising for a few decades now and have always been right on the cusp of using interesting new mediums as a way to engage customers. I dislike the idea of plastering logos and ads into AR experiences and work closely with clients to ensure the experiences are as effective as possible.
You’ve created over twenty Instagram filters. What are the sources of inspiration for you? Which one of your effects is your favourite or was a particularly engaging challenge?
Yesterday I published my 27th(!) effect on Instagram in just under 6 months of use, which is about one effect a week – all in my spare time! I have been an artist my entire life and like playing with all kinds of genres and inspirations – sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s fashion, sometimes it’s a dream. I have a few favorite effects (some of which aren’t huge performers but may have taught me something) but I’ve always had a fondness for “Pickle Cat”. It’s irreverent, humorous, and people aren’t quite sure what to do – eat the pickles? pet the cat? As long as they laugh.
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Your tutorials published on YouTube can be very helpful sources for the beginners in Spark AR Studio. Why do you think it is important to engage so much in the creators’ community as you do? Do you have plans for the next tutorials?
I am surprised the tutorials have gotten as much positive feedback as they have! The community within Spark has been extremely supportive and we all champion one another’s success because it’s all seen as a success for the medium and the platform. If someone can learn from one of us and create something special, then it benefits us all – especially in the beginning.
My next set of tutorials are going to be around how to get started using Spark AR. With the recent influx of new users and the announcement of public beta access to Instagram, there are going to be more people than ever who are just starting off and it’s a good time to introduce them to the concepts. I’d also like to make a few shifts in the content to be less functional (i.e. “here’s how to swirl a light”) and more conceptual (i.e. “here’s why users find moving light so engaging”), that way we can also cover what makes effects that actually resonate with people.
Speaking of helping the creators’ community, what are the most essential pieces of advice that you would like to share with fellow creators?
My first piece of advice – stop trying to monetize everything right out of the gates. We all understand brands want to use augmented reality and are curious about it and we all know they want access to Instagram – but slapping a logo in an AR experience instantly means that no one wants to use it. Sure, you can use it in your case study reel but I don’t like the idea of taking a special platform and turning it into MySpace just because companies will pay us to do so.
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The first question I always get is “how do we link out of this and get them to buy our product” – why are we building this experience just to get them out of it as quick as possible? Keep them there and make the experience worth sharing. Don’t bring them into an AR experience and make them watch a movie in AR – no one does that. It’s cool that a major wine label has an AR effect that replaces the label with a movie, but literally no one knows how it ends because no one watches it.
Make an experience people want to stay in, engage with, play inside of, create with, and – hopefully – share with their friends. Take pride in the medium and stand up to clients and creatives that don’t understand a spatial engagement. It’s important to its survival.
You were present at this year’s F8 conference in San Jose and your effects were mentioned there a couple of times. What are your thoughts after the conference?
I walked away from that conference with a newfound respect for what we all do. I hung out with other Spark AR creators the entire time, from morning until bed, and we all spoke the same language. Some of us were developers and programmers, some artists, some of us were both. I met a couple people that I feel will be a part of my life for many years to come.
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I also had the pleasure of being able to spend several hours with almost the entire Instagram/Facebook team behind these effects – from brand managers to developers – and talked about the future of the platform and what made this special. They shared the new upcoming features and toys for IG – and no, I can’t tell you about them – but I can tell you that they take the content creator role very seriously at IG and are building out entire pieces of functionality just for effect developers – lots of functionality. Easier ways to find effects, find effect creators, creator account types, etc. Couple that with some of the new public announcements at F8 – Instagram “cards” (like snapcodes), image targeting, audio syncing (so you can sync your effects to the user’s BPM of their music), and more – and you have a lot of amazing stuff on the horizon.
I’m really looking forward to seeing it start leaking out into the world.
When you think about the future of Spark AR and augmented reality overall, what is the functionality or use for it that you’re waiting for the most?
Honestly, I love removing barriers. Augmented reality has had a hardware barrier for a while (headsets, computing, etc) and the mobile phone has slowly been removing that barrier for people, allowing them to get used to placing and sizing virtual objects and toying with the concepts of interactive spatial elements. One of the biggest barriers is how people *get* to those experiences. Snap brilliantly developed the Snapcode and it opened the gates for physical AR experiences – and brands have noticed. They use the platform for shopping, exclusive shoe drops, and lots more – and they have an easy access method for it all with the Snapcode.
Any technology that removes barriers to educate people on how to begin using something is always a win in my book. The same way that Solitaire on Windows taught us all how to drag-and-drop, the smartphone is going to be that same tool for augmented reality because it takes difficult concepts and reduces them to familiar interactions – pinch, zoom, tap, etc – all within a spatial environment. We started with dancing hotdogs and rainbow vomit – but when Louis Vuitton starts calling Johanna Jonoski because her non-cute, non-makeup-based glossy vaseline “Beauty 3000” mask is being used by actors in the Avengers, it’s time to pay attention. This is beyond kids, beyond dog ears, beyond Kylie’s makeup effects – this is actual art on a social platform being built by artists and being used by millions.
It’s powerful and it hasn’t even really started yet. So hold on!
Thank you Luke for your interesting remarks! We’re looking forward to your next effects and to what the future of Spark AR will look like!