As mobile AR develops in early stages, the industry is feeling out best practices in app design and user engagement. For example, game mechanics can improve XR retention and stickiness as we examined recently.

Another important concept is utility and reusability. The idea is that lots of AR apps have novelty appeal but it wears off quickly. So building experiences around something that has high frequency and utility — such as communications — can drive repeat/active use.

This is a principle behind Tel Aviv-based Snaappy. It has developed a cross-platform social messaging app (download) that infuses animated AR characters to convey mood or sentiment. This is meant to combine AR’s appeal with messaging’s utility and popularity among millennials.

“Communication is good for retention but bad when it comes to wow effect and engagement,” Snaappy CEO Gal Shvebish told ARtillry. “On the other hand, AR is great for wow effect and engagement, but bad when it comes to retention. If you combine the two into one system, you can take advantage of both [and] really create something that will be here for the long run.”

A Step Further

The app itself offers a few options for AR animations. Characters can be added to traditional message threads (sort of like Animoji), including predictive characters, live typing and recorded audio. They can also be added to photos and videos, sort of like Snapchat AR filters.

But where Snaappy differentiates and takes things one step further is with its “AR Editors.” These allow a sender to create AR experiences — involving Snaappy’s animated characters plus photos and videos — which the receiver can then drop into their own live physical environment.

“The beautiful thing about it, as opposed to all the other messaging apps like Snapchat who are trying to do something more immersive, is that I’m actually sending augmented reality content,” said Shvebish. “I’m not sending a video, I’m sending the content and [a friend] can play with it.”

The standard AR Editor works just as described above, while the GEO AR Editor applies the same process with the added ability to place AR experiences in specific locations. Designated friends can then see those experiences on a map and go to the location to unlock and play with them.

A geo-filter in one sense limits AR messages’ accessibility to specific locations. But in a larger sense, it opens up several compelling use cases and location relevance. For example, scavenger hunts or location-based discovery games could become possible… thus creating more stickiness.

The Long Game

Anything geo-relevant usually gets us thinking of location-based marketing. Snaappy isn’t planning anything along these lines, but could find opportunity in the future for advertisers to drive measurable foot traffic to their store locations — one of our projected AR revenue opportunities.

Another mobile AR revenue opportunity we’ve speculated in the past involves customized AR graphics, a la Facebook Camera Effects. But this isn’t as interesting to Shvebish either, as he’s more focused on Snaappy’s AR characters for a deliberate and well-designed experience.

This approach enables better quality control he says, versus opening up the platform to developers or branded graphics. A focus on quality over quantity optimizes the user experience on an individual level, but also for the brand-building that’s core to Shvebish’s long-term vision.

Starting with the app, he wants to establish an experience brand that takes many eventual forms, such as entertainment and merchandising. Like Rovio, this could be a smart play that builds towards greater valuation for XR content players, just as we recently heard from investors.

“We want to create a big platform, online and offline,” said Shvebish. “The biggest vision is to become the new Disney. You’ll have games based on Snaappy, cartoons based on Snaappy, and merchandise based on Snaappy. This digital product is the first introduction to the market.”

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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Snaappy is however one of many subscribers to ARtillry Insights which does not include quid-pro-quo editorial coverage. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.