California Academy of Sciences Uses Lenses to Take Snapchat Users on Expedition Reef

AR animations of creatures of the coral come to smartphones

The California Academy of Sciences' Green Sea Turtle Snapchat lens - Credit by California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat
Headshot of David Cohen

The California Academy of Sciences is dropping some science on Snapchat users in the form of a new set of lenses.

Snapchat said this initiative marks the first known application of its lens technology by a scientific institution.

The scientific and educational institution’s in-house Visualization Studio tapped the messaging application’s Lens Studio to create five lenses that highlight scenes from Expedition Reef, the newest planetarium show at the California Academy of Sciences, which “aims to explore, explain and sustain the world’s coral reefs by making fundamental breakthroughs in coral reef biology, developing new conservation and restoration techniques and engaging the public through immersive exhibits and multimedia,” the Academy said in a press release.

The Academy’s Visualization Studio created the augmented reality animations of “realistic and scientifically-accurate virtual reef creatures” by collaborating with its scientists and referring to photo and video footage captured on its global expeditions.

One of the animators, Ken Ackerman, said in the release, “Expedition Reef is all about corals and the fascinating ecosystems that they support. We wanted to create lenses that truly bring coral reefs to life. From the damselfish that find shelter among the branches of an elkhorn coral to the tiny copepods that help nourish a single coral polyp, we tried to create lenses that would illustrate the complex relationships that occur on a reef. We also wanted them to be ​entertaining. After some experimentation, we quickly found that the joy of holding a virtual nudibranch in the palm of your hand, or seeing a green sea turtle swim around you, made these lenses irresistibly fun to use.”

The five lenses and their respective Snapcodes are:

Elkhorn Coral, featuring the Elkhorn coral, Dusky damselfish and Trumpetfish.

Elkhorn Coral
California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat

Polyp and Copepods, featuring the copepod and coral polyp.

Polyp and Copepods
California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat

Nudibranch, featuring Anna’s Chromodoris.

California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat

Laced Moray Eel, featuring the laced moray eel and bluestreak cleaner wrasse.

Laced Moray Eel
California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat

Laced Moray Eel
California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat

Green Sea Turtle.

Green Sea Turtle
California Academy of Sciences/Snapchat David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.