Former Snap design chief launches Shader, an AR creation tool that uses AI to generate custom effects


Shader aims to challenge industry heavyweights like Snap’s AR development platform Lens Studio and TikTok Effect house, with its no-code AR creation tool that generates custom effects, 2D masks, and lenses in minutes, rather than spending hours creating a single AR filter, which requires engineering and design skills. The startup built its platform on the open source Stable Diffusion model, allowing users to enter text prompts to generate their creations.

The company was founded by Darya Sesitskaya, a former Snap design lead responsible for designing Snapchat’s AR camera, Lens Studio, Lens Cloud, and more. She also worked at Wanna (formerly Wannaby), an AR technology company known for its virtual tryouts for sneakers, clothing and watches. The Shader team is made up of former Snap AR and Blizzard engineers.

The company’s flagship product – launched in beta on iOS devices in December 2023 – is a real-time AI camera app in which users take a photo of themselves for the app to scan their face and enter a prompt for the AI ​​to generate a custom AR effect. Users can then record a video of themselves wearing the mask or filter.

Image credits: Shader

During our testing, we noticed that the results were simpler, however, there were no bugs or issues. Despite its simplicity, the app has the potential to become more than just a fun tool to play with and show off to your friends. Shader plans to launch a premium subscription option that provides access to higher-quality features, Sesitskaya told TechCrunch.

The app’s cross-platform functionality allows users to share creations across Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, giving creators the ability to display exclusive filters they have conceptualized. Shader will eventually launch an in-app social feed where users can post their models, allowing other creators to like, comment, and try out the effects.

Following in the footsteps of other AI editing apps, users can also upload photos from their camera roll to customize them using prompts or select from Shader’s preset templates, including a fox mask , a Yoda-inspired mask and a range of filters.

Since its beta launch, Shader has seen around 3,000 downloads. An Android version is coming soon.

Image credits: Shader

More recently, the company launched a web version which scans faces with a built-in webcam. There is also a text box for creators to enter prompts. However, there don’t appear to be any pre-made templates available.

Shader is also optimizing its iOS app for the new Vision Pro, which takes advantage of Apple’s features. digital person technology (shown in the image above). Additionally, Shader offers an API and plugin for businesses to implement the technology into their own products.

In terms of funding, Shader has raised $580,000 from Betaworks, Greycroft, Differential Ventures, Mozilla Ventures, and On Deck. Although this is a modestly sized round, the investment implies that there is still demand for augmented reality creation tools. Capital is dedicated to developing new features, such as the ability to use text-to-speech to create prompts and integration with Twitch, Discord and Zoom platforms, which will allow users to wear AR filters live. This will also help grow their marketing team.

“Our mission is to make AR/AI effects accessible to everyone, by allowing users to easily create personalized content. Shader extends to various social face filters, including background, clothing, and hair, prioritizing user-friendly design principles to open up new possibilities for the 400 million creators on social media. In the near future, we also plan to implement the ability to create voice-AR effects and 3D background replacements,” explains Sesitskaya.

The company sharing a short demo of speech-to-text technology on its YouTube channel.


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