Last August, TechCrunch noted that TikTok was working on building its own augmented reality (AR) development platform called Effect House, which would allow creators to build AR effects for use in TikTok’s video app. Today, Effect House has officially gone live. The platform has been operating in a close beta since last fall, where it has so far been adopted by more than 450 creators who have released their effects on TikTok, where they have been used in 1.5 billion videos, which has received over 600 billion views globally, says TikTok.
The company is now opening up beta access to encourage further development.
The launch will put TikTok in closer competition with both Snap and Meta, both of which already offer a range of tools that allow developers to build AR experiences and effects for their own respective families of applications. Meanwhile, TikTok’s huge library of effects is an important part of what drives their video service today and helps inspire creators to make videos. By allowing creators to build their own effects, TikTok will be able to get even more video creation.
Although it may require some technical know-how to build tools with Effect House, the company has created a detailed set of documentation that teaches users how to use the platform to create specific types of effects, such as Segmentation, Face Mask, Head Tracker, Face Stretch and 3D Face, as well as how to use different textures, materials, lighting and shadows and more. The site also includes templates, online tutorials and a Knowledge Lab where TikTok engineers will live demo how to create a particular effect using Effect House. An already available demo shows creators how TikTok made TikTok “Bonk!” effect and shares, for example, tips on how to make similar effects.
TikTok also published a set of dedicated guidelines for Effect House, which outline the additional policies in addition to the existing Community guidelines that effect creators must adhere to. These explain that TikTok will not allow creators to publish effects that promote colorism, negative stereotypes against protecting groups, those that portray cosmetic surgery (e.g., lip fillers), or those that encourage scrutiny of someone else’s appearance.
The latter is an interesting choice on the part of TikTok, as some of the most popular filters and effects to date across platforms are the “beauty filters” that smooth the skin, adjust jaw lines, change the shape of facial features, apply makeup, fill up the skin. lips and more. TikTok also has its own set of these. But there has been a growing setback to this type of editing, as the effects of filters on users’ mental health – and especially on younger girls – have become more obvious. A majority (59%) of Americans now say they find beauty filters worrying, a Consumer Reports survey noted last fall.
Lawmakers have been particularly interested in how social platforms affect how young people see themselves as they look at bills to regulate the industry. They asked social media companies last year, including Snap, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, about things like content eating disorders. It’s likely that TikTok did not want to create an unnecessary minefield of potentially problematic creative effects, as the app – which is already popular with younger people – is also allowed to serve an audience under 13 through an age-restricted system.
TikTok says the user-created effects will be reviewed by its Trust and Safety team to ensure they comply with company policies before being released to the public. And if the company misses an offensive effect, the community can report it using the “Report effect” feature. This will prompt the team to review it again to comply with the power guidelines. The company also says that if it detects that an effect is being used in a way that violates the guidelines (even if the effect itself was not in conflict), it will remove the effect and the videos that used it.
And TikTok will hide some of the creative effects, such as those depicting alcohol, from appearing in Effect Trial in the app.
The company started the launch of Effect House by promoting a number of early users of the tools, including:
When the creators ‘effects built with Effect House are displayed on TikTok, the effects’ results page will contain the creator’s username and link to their profile. All of the creator’s published effects in their portfolio can also be viewed from a designated tab on their profile page.
Even though it is open to the public, Effect House is still considered a beta, TikTok notes.