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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

March 24, 2022 | 3 min read

Snap’s deaf and hard-of-hearing internal employee group has partnered with SignAll, a group of developers and designers, to create immersive, AR fingerspelling filters meant to “scale empathy” and better connect deaf and hearing users. And in honor of two motion pictures with predominantly deaf casts that are for major awards, the social platform is bringing its efforts to the Oscars.

Snap today announced that it plans to air a spot during the Academy Awards on Sunday, March 27 in support of the 400 million-plus people around the world who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Brought to life with the help of directing duo ‘The Mercadantes’, the spot depicts a diverse array of hearing and deaf or hard-of-hearing snap users who use American Sign Language (ASL) to spell out the word “Congrats'' on their screens, using Snap’s fingerspelling AR tools. It will be the social network’s first-ever Oscars ad.

The campaign was inspired by two Oscar-nominated pictures — CODA, the 2021 drama that has become the first Best Picture-nominated film to feature a predominantly deaf cast, and Audible, the Best Documentary-nominated Netflix picture that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a football team at Maryland School for the Deaf.

Concepted and produced by the brand’s in-house creatives, the ad showcases a Snap augmented reality (AR) Lens, or live filter, that translates users’ signs to written balloon-like letters. The Lenses highlighted in the spot were engineered by Snap’s internal group of deaf and hard-of-hearing employees called the ‘Deafengers’ in conjunction with SignAll, an organization of designers and developers dedicated to building bridges between the hearing and deaf communities.

Guy looking at Snapchat with filter

Bringing together machine learning, computer vision and natural-language processing algorithms, SignAll created the artificial intelligence that undergirds a range of Lenses equipped with hand-tracking technology. These Lenses were designed not only to support hard-of-hearing and deaf users, but also to encourage hearing users to learn and engage with friends through ASL.

“At its core, Snapchat is all about communicating with your real friends in ways that are fun, engaging, and meaningful," said Snap's chief marketing officer in a statement shared with The Drum. "It’s important to us to make that human-to-human connection possible for everyone in our community, and that’s why we are passionate about fostering linguistic equity between people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and the hearing world."

The effort is part of Snap’s broader mission to “scale empathy through education,” with a dedicated focus on leveraging the Snap Camera for good. The company sees AR as an especially promising frontier — it claims that over 200m Snapchat users engage with AR daily and that the platform garners an average of more than 6bn AR Lens plays per day. By innovating its AR offerings, the social platform aims to advance social good.

Snap’s fingerspelling Lenses can be accessed through Snapcode or by searching for terms like ‘Fingerspell Username’, ‘Random Words’ or ‘Randomizer Fingerspelling’ in the Lens Explorer tab on Snapchat.

Snapchat fingerspelling lens filter with hand signals

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