Elon Musk probably won’t send you into space anytime soon, but if you want to see what it would like to be up close and personal with Starman and his Tesla, there’s always Snapchat.
A new Snapchat lens appears as a portal to space. Users can enter, see Starman, and walk right back out. Here’s a video of a user testing it in New York’s Grand Central Terminal:
That lens is just one of the latest products out of SVRF, a tech startup vying to be the best search engine for immersive content like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The website also has an in-house studio that’s making creative experiences like the Starman lens for Snapchat.
But AR experiences like Starman are exciting some Snapchat users and even former ones.
“As someone who isn’t on Snapchat, I opened up Snapchat for the first time in two years because these portals are so damn cool,” Cesar Kuriyama, founder of 1 Second Everyday, told Mashable.
But seriously, the update is really getting some people mad.
For SVRF CEO and founder , the viral lenses are among her effort to move the world beyond experiences isolated on their phone. She became interested in the topic while reading Feed, a young adult dystopian novel by M.T. Anderson, when she was 13.
“Everything is AR and VR. People have chips in the brains and it’s all advertising driven. When I read it, I freaked out. That’s why I don’t have Facebook because Facebook is that future, but I love the imagination. I knew I wanted to work on whatever is the past the phone,” Dominguez said.
Back in 2013, Google Glass was viewed as one way to take us beyond the phone. Dominguez decided to apply for a pair as part of the Explorer program and then traveled the world, including Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Dubai, Goa, and Mumbai, with them.
Now, at 25, she’s building SVRF, with a team of five out of an office in New York City. She’s raised $725,000 from angel investors, including Giphy founder Alex Chung, First Round’s Product Co-op, and Techstars.
Since Snapchat released Lens Studio, the SVRF team has been building experiences like Starman as well as a play on Pickle Rick from Ricky and Morty. Pickle Rick dancing in a mansion has more than 1 million views on Snapchat, and counting:
Those experiences are exclusive to Snapchat, and yet, they aren’t easy to find there. Instead, her team and the fan community has been promoting them across Reddit, Twitter, and their own social channels. The subreddit r/SnapLenses has nearly 120,000 subscribers.
“An early version of SVRF was StumbleUpon of VR. After testing we realized people would want to search for their next experience, like now I want to see a snowman or now I want to be in Rome,” Dominguez said.
Snapchat is far from the only destination for AR content. The SVRF team has used Facebook’s Camera Studio as well. However, that’s been better for face lenses rather than for portals, Dominguez said. She also is planning to build own AR app and API for VR-enabled devices.
Already, Dominguez has been quite happy with the response to SVRF’s AR.
“We’re hearing people being like, ‘Wow this is unreal. How did you do this?’ But somebody did say, ‘Hopefully no one is doing this on the street cause you might get run over,'” she said.