Snapchat is a great place for messaging friends and watching bad reality shows — but did you know it can also be used to learn ASL via augmented reality? Augmented reality (or AR) gets thrown around a lot these days. Apps like Wayfair use AR to assist folks shopping for furniture. AR educational models in Google Search help kids learn about different subjects. Numerous companies have created (or are in the process of making) their very own AR glasses.
Along with brands like Apple, Google, and others, Snap has also become rather involved in the AR niche. Snap uses AR for immersive filters in Snapchat, it’s developing new Spectacles that are entirely focused on creating new AR experiences, and it’s regularly finding other ways to expand the technology. Today, AR can be used in Snapchat for shopping, playing games, education, etc.
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One of the more fascinating ways Snap’s utilizing AR is with special Snapchat Lenses that teach users how to fingerspell in American Sign Language. In a press release from Snap, the company explains it created the Lenses in partnership with SignAll — a startup dedicated to creating technology for Deaf people. After launching its own Ace ASL mobile app for Android and iOS earlier in 2021, the company partnered with Snap in September 2021 (and again in April 2022) to bring these ASL Lenses to life. Here’s a quick breakdown of all the different ASL Lenses available in Snapchat.
Launched in April 2022, ASL Alphabet is the latest ASL Snapchat Lens. It’s also the best place to start. Upon opening the Lens, users choose one of three exercises — including Alphabet, Build Words, and Match Letters. The ASL Alphabet Lens shows the letter you need to sign, what the hand shape looks like, and analyses your hand to make sure you’re signing correctly. You can also view an integrated alphabet to see all the different handshapes and which ones you’ve learned.
Once you’re comfortable with the alphabet, Randomizer Fingerspelling is another fun Snapchat Lens. It asks users to fingerspell a random word and shows guided prompts for each new letter. Some examples include ‘Dragon,’ ‘Fish,’ and ‘Bird.’ After successfully signing a word, the Lens morphs into a fun effect based on the word you just spelled (for example, after signing ‘dragon,’ a virtual dragon starts flying around you).
The Fingerspell Username Lens is exactly what it sounds like. Once again using guided prompts, the Lens helps users fingerspell their first name in ASL. Each letter floats to the top of the screen once it’s signed and shoots out virtual confetti to encourage you along the way. Whatever your name is listed as in Snapchat, that’s the name you’ll be asked to fingerspell.
Last but certainly not least, Snapchat has the Random Words Lens. This is the most game-like of the four Lenses. Users have to spell four-letter words as random letters fall down from the top of the screen. You have 9 seconds to sign each letter before the next one starts falling, encouraging you to sign as quickly (but still accurately) as possible. Snapchat doesn’t track your score or anything like that, but it’s a fun way to encourage yourself to increase your signing speed.
How To Use Snapchat’s ASL Lenses
While using a dedicated ASL app is still more useful for serious learning, having these Lenses built directly into Snapchat is a fantastic way to expose more people to the world of American Sign Language. Whether someone has a Deaf family member, encounters a Def customer while at work, or wants to be more familiar with the language, having a basic understanding of ASL is a great tool. And thanks to these Snapchat Lenses, getting started is easier than ever. Open Snapchat, hold your phone up to one of the codes above, and tap the scan icon at the bottom of your screen. If that doesn’t work, open the Snapchat app, tap the search icon in the top-left corner, and search the name of whatever ASL lens you want to use.