Netflix engineer builds SnapCamera lens to bring a comic book vibe to video calls


Snapchat’s Lens Studio has built-in recognition for 5 hand gestures that means you don’t have to unmute to say hi or BRB.

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If you need something to ease the frustration of conversations via video chat, consider a new Snap Camera lens. Cameron Hunter, a senior software engineer at Netflix, created Meeting Gestures. Instead of unmuting to say, “hi,” or “ok,” this lens communicates the information with a gesture instead. 

When you raise your index finger, “Question” pops up on your video feed in a red comic-book word bubble. Hunter used the smile recognition in Snap Camera to display “ha, ha” bubbles. Moving outside the frame brings up “I’ll be right back” in a word bubble that fills the screen.

He tweeted that he used five built-in hand gestures in Snap Lens Studio to create the lens. 

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Snap Camera is simple to install and use. It works on Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and  Twitch. Once you’ve got Snap Camera installed, set your video conference camera to Snap Camera. You have to run Snap Camera and your web conferencing software at the same time. 

From the home screen of Snap Camera, paste this into the search box: https://www.snapchat.com/unlock/?type=SNAPCODE&uuid=16839bd69c67492696d6ccf1296ad31e&metadata=01 

Most lenses have a more user friendly name. On Tuesday, Hunter said he was working with SnapChat to resolve an issue with the name of the lens.

That link will bring up Hunter’s lens. The word bubbles will look backward to you but will read correctly for viewers. 

Build your own lens

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Hunter’s Twitter post sparked several ideas about additional gestures for the Snap Camera library, including sign language. Hunter tweeted that you can lock messages or images to tracked objects such as a hand or a head. Snap Lens Studio does not support the middle finger gesture. Twitter user Johnny Xmas suggested the Meeting Gestures lens would be helpful during a large-scale scrum.

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Ryan Brown, content and creative lead at Twitter, built his own meeting friendly lens. When you hold up an open palm, a flash of fire pops up and a heart flashes up when you hold up an index finger. 

Lens Studio has a guide that explains how to make a lens. You can create Face Lenses for front camera experiences and World Lenses for rear camera experiences. 

There are numerous templates for both types. The General section covers 2D, 3D, face tracking, audio, and scripting. You can even define a hint that will display for a user when a lens is turned on. There are also guidelines on how to submit a lens to the Snap Camera gallery.

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