This lens was inspired by Seattleites' love of the outdoors (no matter the weather!); our amazing soccer team: the Sounders FC; and our love of Seattle and desire to help our wonderful City rebound from COVID.

We LOVE transforming spaces into Places! Spaces are transformed into Places when people attach meaning to them. Providing shared, playful experiences within a space is one of the best ways to foster a positive sense of meaning and togetherness. Cities and public space organizations are interested in Placemaking activations because of their proven ability to foster community, increase commerce and improve public safety. Interest in activations has grown in the wake of COVID as downtowns attempt to recover from pandemic disruptions.

As downtown Seattle residents, business owners and artists who understand the potential of AR for re-invigorating our City, we helped initiate a collaboration between the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) and the Sounders FC to create a playful AR experience for Occidental Park. Occidental Park is located near the (soccer) stadium and is in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square - an area with many urban challenges and that was impacted especially hard by COVID. The goal was to provide a fun, competitive, family-friendly, AR experience that would draw kids from 3 to 83 to the park and build upon the Sounders FC's "March to the Match" that begins at Occidental Park during the summer. Working closely with the Sounders FC and DSA, we co-designed and created "A Friendly with Steph Frei", a location-based AR penalty kick game that combines a real-world soccer goal with a digital soccer ball, goalie and scoreboard.

What it does

The interactive lens uses Lens Studio’s latest Landmarker Feature and Physics System to create a playful, location-based game that combines a real-world soccer goal with a digital soccer ball, goalie and scoreboard. Players can play solo (against the CPU) or with a friend by selecting a 1 or 2 player version of the game. The player tries to score goals against a digital superhero-inspired version of Sounders FC’s goalie, Steph Frei. By posting a screen shot of their scores to social media with designated hashtags, players are able to win Sounders FC swag along with bragging rights.

How we built it

Built in LensStudio, this lens allowed us to push the boundaries of what’s possible in Snapchat while leveraging our teams’ diverse artistic talents, technical skills and real-world experience building outdoor, augmented reality experiences for the front-facing camera.

The lens was designed in close cooperation with the Downtown Seattle Association and Sounders FC in order to align the two organizations’ goals, meld their branding requirements, and maximize community impact. To increase the sense of play and whimsey, we designed a stylized, superhero-inspired, version of Stef Frei. The 2D imagery was used on signage and served as the concept art for the 3D modeling, textures and animation of the Steph character. Animated 2D animations were also added to the UI to enhance the game experience.

Lens Studio’s new Landmarker feature was used as the technical basis for the lens. A real-world soccer goal was scanned along with adjacent signage designed specifically for the project. The combination of the goal and the signage improved the anchoring and tracking ability of the scan and computer vision. A transparent, digital version of the soccer goal was also created to replace the scan and improve the accuracy and realism of the game play and user experience. Combining this approach with Lens Studio’s physics system, we were able to create realistic feeling interactions between the digital soccer ball and the real-world soccer goal.

The game play sequencing and UI were created with custom javascript. This was done in 3-steps.
Step 1: Mini lenses were created to prototype and trouble-shoot each element that would be used in the final lens. This allowed us to safely test out ideas and find the limits of what was possible in Snapchat. Step 2: Selected features from above were combined into a single comprehensive prototype. This allowed us to further troubleshoot and develop an architecture strategy for the final lens. Step 3: The prototype was refined and rewritten into a flexible, modular system to ensure stable operation and enable us to adjust the UX/UI to the real-world conditions on-site faster and easier.

Challenges we ran into

The main challenges were the following:

  1. Being new to designing a lens this complex in Lens Studio and learning its capabilities and limitations along the way.
  2. While Lens Studio has some built in event-based triggers, they are limited. Additionally, we found many instances where we needed state-based triggers which Lens Studio currently does not have. Developing ways and work-arounds to accomplish this was the biggest challenge. We ultimately ended up using custom messaging triggers to simulate some event and state-based triggers.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are really proud of the final system architecture and framework. The final framework is really flexible and can be applied to any other lens that needs event and/or state-based triggers.

What we learned

Our main lessons learned are:

  1. Keep the coding modular and as flexible as possible. It takes more time up front, but pays off in the end.
  2. Clearly separate data and logic so that the pipeline remains stable even when parameters are changed.
  3. Use procedurally generated logic and avoid hardcoding parameters. Reduce reliance on “magic numbers” as much as possible.

What's next for A Friendly with Steph Frei

The lens will be available in the current form for play and winning swag through the month of August and on home game days after that. The experience also includes a sister “Scarves Up” photo op lens for fans to take a picture with a superhero-inspired version of Nico Lodeiro.

Moving forward, we anticipate evolving the lens seasonally to reflect the Sounders changing uniforms; adding more animation variations; potentially incorporating alternative players and interactions.

We are excited not just for the launch of the lens but on the potential they demonstrate for AR Placemaking, space activations and community engagement. We are also excited to apply the lessons learned to other projects and continue to improve upon them our approach and methodology.

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