Get to know ‘Lenses,’ one of the latest innovations by communication leader Viber
Because of COVID-19, all of us have become digital natives. Now more than ever, our lives revolve around the web. Everyone is spending more time in front of screens since online is the best way to be connected with the outside world amid the lockdowns and the quarantines. Could you imagine the current pandemic happening in the absence of modern technology?
Thanks to the internet, human essentials have been made more accessible. Aside from food, shelter, and clothing, communication is fundamental to man’s survival. As poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island.” We couldn’t have this gotten far if it weren’t for social contact.
With the improvement of technology, the way we do things changes, including communication. From the first online chat system called “Talkomatic” in 1973 to the rise of social media beginning with one of the earliest networks, the short-lived “Six Degrees” profile uploading service in 1997, we now have the likes of Facebook, Zoom, and Viber, among others, as our primary source of communication.
Communication online is more significant today, as it goes beyond just the basic transmission of information. Social media and other communication platforms are now instruments for economic growth, for businesses to sell, market, and advertise. In the same way, they have turned into a form of entertainment, a product to maintain the sanity and wellbeing of people. A much-needed respite from the stresses of everyday life.
A particular product of interest that is about to launch, at least in the Philippines, is Viber Lenses. Made possible through the partnership of Rakuten Viber and Snap Inc., Snapchat’s augmented reality lenses have been adopted to the cross-platform voice-over IP and instant messaging software application. What does this imply? In essence, Lenses is your usual Viber given the snap-filter flare. Video calls and photos through the app are made more fun with AR.
Nadav Melnick, vice president for product development at Rakuten Viber, expounds on what Lenses is all about. If you’ve been using stickers in your Viber chats, you have him to thank for pioneering the sticker market. Nadav handles all web products and has worked on basically every feature of the app, from Viber Communities to Viber Out. He manages the product and content teams, UX and UI, and all localization studios.
‘What we were looking for was a meaningful way to help users express themselves. We help people stay in touch whether it’s with video calls, group chats, communities, and so on. But also, there’s a place for fun and shareable moments that are beyond just “how are you?”’
The idea to work with Snap came in the middle of the health crisis, with everyone separated from their friends, families, and loved ones. “What we were looking for was a meaningful way to help users express themselves. We help people stay in touch whether it’s with video calls, group chats, communities, and so on. But also, there’s a place for fun and shareable moments that are beyond just ‘how are you?’” says Nadav. It was clear that there was a huge place in the world of videos and photos that Viber had left unexplored, and so the collaboration was an easy decision.
“Enhancing our camera as a strategic play was important to us. We’ve seen an increase in the use of chat, photos, and videos in general,” adds Nadav. As a matter of fact, there has been a 30 percent growth in the number of app users in the Philippines.
Nadav takes pride in the fact that the new feature retains the platform’s core branding of prioritizing privacy. “Whatever product we present to our users must always respect privacy. That was the first question, can we keep protecting our users?” he says, emphasizing that Viber has been very keen on keeping data and privacy safe. “That’s a big part of that. We do not share any personal data with Snap on this integration.”
Lenses will have the following features: Instant Augmented Reality, which harnesses the power of AR putting overlay images on top of surroundings; Attention-Grabbing Filters that add a creative layer to your visuals; Expressive Masks that accurately follow users’ facial movements;
Beautification Features to enhance images with realistic touches such as makeup and a variety of hair colors; and Customized Bitmoji, which integrates personalized Bitmoji characters into photos and videos.
“It’s an incredible product. It brings joy to anyone who uses it, from little kids, the younger audience, to any type of users,” says Nadav.
Viber Lenses is in beta version. It will launch in the Philippines on Aug 31, Tuesday.