I live on the opposite side of the country from my parents, which because of the coronavirus pandemic I haven’t seen my dad in almost a year. I did send him a video message the other day, though, except instead of me talking it was an image of me as a glowing green dragon head wearing lipstick talking.
“Omg. That is great! It looks so real. I am gonna have nightmares,” he said, before asking me if the effect was created by colored contact lenses.
Small moments of delight have held many of us, myself included, together this year as though by chewing gum. And few technological sleights of hand have brought more joy than Augmented Reality (AR) filters (I am partial to Instagram, but it’s the individual designers and not the platform, in my opinion, that matters.)
To use Instagram filters, make sure your app is up to date, go to the home page and swipe right. Arrayed along the bottom of the screen where you make a Story post should be small circles, each of which represent a filter. Some are insipid (puppy ears), some are vain (there are infinite eye-widening and skin-clearing options), but just as many are bizarre, hilarious, freaky, and fun. Some are even games!
I spent much of the early weeks of quarantine exploring these filters and if you want to enjoy them, I suggest you do some exploring too. My taste, to my mother’s chagrin, runs toward the eerie and disgusting, and some of my favorite AR designers who share filters to the app are @marcwakefieldarts, @jqgray, @arabskiy.skakun, @solar.w, @anonamister, and @mitsukokubota. To find them, or to search by keyword, open any filter, click on “Browse Effects” and use the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner to search. (You can also start by browsing the Effect Gallery, where categories include “Moods”, “Weird & Scary” and “Games.”) It’s up to you whether you want to post videos to your story or download them for your own offline purposes.
I like how sometimes a technology that seems silly or pointless can surprise us. Once I explained the AR filters to my dad (who does not know what Instagram is), I asked if he had any requests. He said Tasmanian Devil, and Chewbacca, and I was happy — no, delighted — to oblige. –Caroline O'Donovan