What’s Next for AR Filters?
Face filter artists are making waves, using the screens of smartphones as their canvas. They are creators establishing their own names and building their own audiences, much like traditional fine artists. Explore the mind of German AR artist Adrian Steckeweh aka Omega C who wants to skip the obvious beauty filters and leave the user completely puzzled.
How did you get started as an AR creator?
– I started with vfx renderings that simulate virtual elements on my face. So being able to do that in real-time was very exciting to me. Especially having the effects so easily accessible on Instagram for everybody, was a great motivation.
What does the name Omega C stand for?
– I love the concept of everything having a beginning and an ending, as in I’m not believing in it. At least when it comes to our existence and the world around us. I grew up in Christianity where there is an alpha and omega on candles etc. to represent that duality. I chose the idea of Omega as a target at the end of the tunnel, while actually focusing on the present and moving forward step by step. Kind of like something that gives me direction, while I try to not focus on it.
Is it harder or easier to make a career as an independent AR creator now compared to when you first started?
– I think it is both at the same time. In the beginning, agencies hired us, because they didn’t have the knowledge to make effects themselves. That resulted in many emails, many project ideas, and a few were even realized. But a lot of it was also educating clients and agencies about AR and its potential. These days agencies have their in-house designers doing effects as well. Some of my former bigger-name clients found their normal agencies being able to create AR effects and moved “back” to them. But having clients being more open to AR makes the projects that I do now more interesting and they also appreciate me and my style.
Technology and especially AI has evolved enormously in accessibility over the last year. How do keep up with the pace and stay informed in terms of what’s next?
– I’m always excited about new technology and tools. I love to read about new papers in research which usually develop into applications sooner or later. I think the idea of what’s next is kind of hanging in the air for the past years, we are just not getting there fast enough. SciFi movies usually do a great job in predicting the future.
Do you use generative AI in any part of your work?
– Currently not. I use text-to-image AI for fun though. Most available generative AI doesn’t really fit my field of work. I tried audio-generating AI the other day.
My videos come without sound and for a recent one I was researching if there is an AI that can add audio to a video based on what it sees. There are projects working on this, but the outcome wasn’t very convincing. I was hoping for some experimental soundscape, but it felt very unrelated to the video.
What are some challenges you face when creating AR filters for mobile devices?
– A huge challenge to me is to capture and convey a feeling that I try to formulate in my work. I want the user’s mind to struggle to understand what it’s seeing and make that struggle as tingly as possible. It’s one thing to make an eyeliner effect to which the brain immediately comes to the satisfying conclusion that “I’m wearing eyeliner”. But I enjoy effects that leave it at understanding parts of what it sees and other parts leave it puzzled.
What AR ideas have you ditched lately and why?
–I ’m always thriving for realism as it makes the struggle that I mention above so much more enjoyable. I tried to make realistic face effects that alter the face strongly. But those easily end up looking comical.
You’ve worked with e.g. Zalando, Adidas and Shiseido What do you hear from your clients? Why are they interested in creating things in AR?
– Especially in connection to campaigns, AR effects bring a great platform for interactivity between the campaign and the consumer. Being so well integrated with social media makes it feel quite natural to use and share it. It’s like a free gift to the consumer with the return of free ad space for the brand.
What was your most intense AR experience in 2022?
– Interesting. I barely feel intensity when it comes to AR effects. How much can you convey through a phone screen? 🙂 But I have discovered the 2018 VR movie “Spheres” recently. That one came to mind when hearing “intense“. I didn’t have that many wow moments in a while. Unfortunately, they didn’t read the guidelines for VR well-being, because at some point the entire scene starts rotating and I got terribly motion sick. That was intense in a bad way.
What future uses for face filters do you think we can’t even imagine yet?
– I think they will become part of our Mixed Reality in the future. Like everyday makeup. I’m not sure how my approach will fit into that, but let’s see.