As we continue our interview series with Spark AR creators, today we’re catching up with Mate Steinforth, a Berlin, Germany-based designer and creator, known for his proficiency and craft. Mate talks about a 20-year career as a creative, where he finds inspiration for his work, and he offers some advice for how brands can approach AR — a topic Mate recently covered in more detail during his Instagram Deconstructed interview.
Tell us a little about your career?
I’m currently a designer, and the director and founder of BetaBeta, an augmented reality consultancy based here in Berlin, Germany. Previously, I was running the Berlin office of SEHSUCHT, and held similar creative leadership roles for agencies in New York and Madrid. I have about 20 years of experience in the creative sector, working on cross media projects, especially in the animation and advertising industries.
What got you interested in AR?
I’ve had an ongoing interest in real-time graphics for several years. It started with early WebGL projects, then I explored Unreal Engine for virtual reality experiences, which then led me to AR, starting with ARKit, and then I jumped over to Spark AR, which I’ve been using for a few years. I’m always exploring new technologies, and for me, AR just has so many possibilities, it’s where I want to put all my energy right now.
How long have you been using Spark AR?
I’ve been actively using Spark AR for about 3 years now. The first effect I published was called “3rd Eye,” which was my play on the Ajna chakra. I’ve since created over 40 additional effects, some are active, some are not, I like to rotate what appears on my Instagram profile.
Where do you find inspiration for your effects?
I get a lot of my inspiration from other creators who are active in the Spark AR Facebook Group, sharing what they’ve produced, or just how they’re thinking about different creative problems. I also find Reddit, SnapChat and TikTok helpful for inspiration and ideas.
Do you have a favorite Spark AR Studio feature?
I’ve been exploring shaders recently, so render passes is something I’m really excited about. In general, I’m a big fan of any feature that helps me to push the technical boundaries of what’s possible with Spark AR Studio.
What other AR creation tools do you use?
Outside of Spark AR, my usual go-tos are Cinema 4D and Adobe Creative Cloud. I recently started using Blender, which is pretty cool too, and I’m trying to move toward more open source alternatives, like Affinity Suite and PhotoPea. I occasionally use Adobe Substance Painter and Houdini too. I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to creative tools, it’s whatever gets the job done.
What types of projects are brands requesting?
I think most brands are excited about AR, however, they have very little knowledge of what works well in AR, or how to approach the creative process. Helping with the AR ideation and guiding creative teams through production is a big part of my role. I think a lot of brands are interested in try-on experiences, or effects that are related to a moment or event, like the release of a new song or a cultural holiday.
Any additional advice you would give brand teams?
I think we’ve seen several examples of effects going viral that clearly have a brand hook. For me, it validates that there’s a growing consumer appetite for brand AR experiences — and an opportunity for brand teams.
What excites you about the future of AR?
I think AR could very well be the next way of interacting with the digital world — bigger than the internet, bigger than smartphones.
The interaction paradigm we use to manage data hasn’t changed much since, well, forever. It’s possible to draw a direct line from the literal cardboard folder on Doug Engelbart’s desk to the folder icon in the latest iOS 14 files app. With AR, this paradigm could fundamentally change, and this is what excites me the most.
Steve Jobs famously likened the computer to a bicycle for the mind, a tool to expand knowledge. Fast forward three decades, and VR is heralded as an empathy platform, because it literally puts you in someone else's perspective. Now AR lets people become whoever they want to be, and in a world in which the digital and physical realm merge together, it becomes about which identity someone plays in their social context.
We couldn’t agree more. Our thanks to Mate for taking the time to share his opinions and perspective. You can find more of his Spark AR effects and design work on Instagram @mate_steinforth or at his website betabeta.xyz. Creators should also check out Mate’s Twitch show, where he regularly dives deep into AR creation topics — a full archive of his past shows is available on YouTube too.
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