When Snapchat invested in the cultural world with augmented reality

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Snapchat Popular for using fun, face changing filters. After that, the company wants to invest in the world of culture, art, entertainment and education thanks to augmented reality. He is currently offering an experience called “Playing Pompidou” with the Swiss artist Christian Marclay in front of the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Reporting by Fiona Moghaddam

3 min

“Playing Pompidou”: a collaboration between Snapchat engineers and an artist

This isn’t the first time Snapchat has decided to invest in the cultural medium. Already last September, the application made an offer

An augmented reality experience with the Richelieu site of the French National Library. Through the app, the public was able to explore the site as it was in the last century. Snapchat then teamed up with the Pompidou Center and artist Christian Marclay to create Pompidou Playing, which appeared outside the Paris museum.

This collaboration between the multidisciplinary artist and the social network is not new, as he created “All together” with the help of Snapchat engineers, seen in the retrospective presented in Bobourg in 2019. For this work, designed to celebrate the billionth user of the application, the artist collected several smartphones together, hung them on the wall, each of them broadcast a montage of videos from the social network. “I’m not a social media user, He knows Christian Marclay, who interviewed Éric Chaverou, but it’s a topic I’m interested in because billions of people use it and we can’t turn a blind eye to it.” The geometric facade of the Pompidou Center inspired the artist who wanted to turn it into a musical instrument that was recorded inside the building, with colors and sounds coming from it. Sounds like a door or elevator creaking, a malfunctioning escalator, and “Not considered music, Christian Marclay admits, but these sounds are important to me, so I offer them to the public to compose something with.” The public is thus invited to create their own music by manipulating the facade of the Pompidou Center through the Snapchat application.

Artist Christian Marclay at the French Culture building in December 2022
Artist Christian Marclay at the French Culture building in December 2022

© Radio France
– Eric Chaveru

It would not have been possible without the engineers with whom Christian Markle collaborated for several weeks to produce Playing Pompidou. “These engineers are from a different world than mine, Christian Marclay explains. They know very little about visual art, the visual aspect of Snapchat still needs to develop. When we talk about augmented reality, we mostly think of visuals, but I was interested in sound. Algorithms, which Snapchat engineers are very good at, made it possible to create a keyboard with an image that moves from the place where the sound comes from.

The artist used the social network as if he were himself “raw material” : “I try to be creative with these raw materials and see how to use things in a different, more experimental way. Engineers have also made discoveries. By ‘playing Pompidou’ they have developed processes that they didn’t think about. It’s a two-way exchange.”

Sound has been at the heart of Christian Marclay’s work since he began in the late 1970s. “Sound and image are two fields of experience of the artist, Annalisa Rimmaudo, curator of contemporary collections at the Center Pompidou and co-curator of the Christian Marclay exhibition, explains. It is in their confrontation that he develops critical thinking of both aesthetic and socio-political nature. The piece made with Snapchat, on the one hand, is live, ephemeral music, because it is new every time, and in general it participates in the work of Christian Marklay. There is also a form of music sharing and streaming. It is also interesting to see the exhibition on the street, in the square.

Because this work, which is visible outside the museum, allows the Pompidou Center to attract another public through the use of smartphones and Snapchat. Hoping he walks through the doors of that place. Snapchat is already very exciting “encouraging” : Tens of thousands of activations on the “Playing Pompidou” app, from the first weeks each user spends an average of one minute there (that’s a lot, anything more than 20 seconds is considered very satisfactory by the app). It remains to be seen whether these connections significantly turn off museum visitors.

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Augmented reality is being developed in France

For Snapchat, appearing with cultural institutions is a way to prove interest in augmented reality, a technology the social network intends to pioneer. Moreover, the company has opened a studio dedicated to augmented reality in France, as Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel committed in June 2021 during the Choose France summit organized by the President of the Republic. Snapchat’s AR Studio opened last December at F Station, a start-up incubator founded by Xavier Niel. Last year, 14 people from different backgrounds (3D artists, engineers, special effects specialists, creatives) were hired. “Implement and train augmented reality experiences with the culture, arts, entertainment and education sectors, as there is currently no course to learn augmented reality in France”, explains Donatien Bozon, director of AR Studio. Because this place has a mission to be “center of excellence in augmented reality”, adds Donatien Bozon. This initiative, unique in the world, should serve “Demonstrating the potential of augmented reality technology, a priority technology at Snapchat.” As proof of this, in May 2021, the company introduced the first augmented reality glasses, ahead of Facebook and Apple, which are working on similar technologies.

Aimed at AR Studio in France “to create non-profit partnerships with institutions and artists that bring innovative ideas. We provide technology and the opportunity to bring it to a very large audience”. Snapchat is used by 27 million people every month in France, so the “Play Pompidou” experience, for example, is available to users all over the world. Other partnerships with players in the world of culture, arts or entertainment are currently being discussed. And Snapchat hopes to introduce a new partnership every month in 2023, synonymous with innovation for the company. Donatien on going from playful to useful for Bozon:

“We often enter augmented reality through entertainment. But today we want to demonstrate that it can be used for something, for example, thanks to augmented reality, to show the way on the phone, to learn life-saving gestures, a teacher can show his students. from the ground rising ancient statues…Culture is a simple way to demonstrate the potential of augmented reality and its full scale. The world becomes a canvas to express human creativity. We want to go beyond technical barriers and show developers, artists, but also virtual or real for the general public How easy it is to use these tools to discover works.”

With 250 million users around the world enjoying augmented reality every day, Snapchat believes that this is not a niche sector and intends to establish itself as an important player in the industry.

Soft power

57 min

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