Meet the Singapore tech artist who was invited to be one of the world’s first Instagram custom filter creators

Eugene Soh, a full-time tech artist for about seven years now, is the founder of creative tech company Dude Studios and social enterprise Mind Palace. The Pikachu-inspired filter on the left is one of his many creations.
Instagram / dude.sg

Remember the simple but insanely popular dog ears filter on Snapchat? Or perhaps you were one of the thousands who succumbed to using the latest viral face-ageing app.

Filters – whether on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or anywhere else – are quickly evolving together with advancements in technology.

But to Eugene Soh, who has been a tech artist for about seven years, catching up with new technology has never been the hardest part about being Singapore’s first-ever custom Instagram filter creator.

Instead, like many other Singaporeans, Soh just wishes he had more time to create more Instagram filters.

Soh graduated from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) School of Art, Design and Media in 2013.
Instagram / dude.sg

In an interview with Business Insider, the 32-year-old, who is the founder of a creative tech studio Dude Studios and social enterprise Mind Palace, said he has created a total of 10 Instagram filters so far.

The most popular one so far has been “Howie’s Faces” (seen in the post below), which was made in collaboration with another tech artist, and has been used over 60 million times, Soh said.

Unfortunately, as much as he would like to create even more filters for Instagram, Soh’s priority for now is on projects he has been commissioned to do.

Soh told Business Insider that as he is currently juggling two commissioned filters, one personal filter, two interactive installations and one virtual reality (VR) project – and yes, all at the same time albeit with different deadlines for each.

“I have so many ideas for Instagram filters,” Soh said, adding that his dream was to just have one week to himself that he could dedicate to creating just Instagram filters.

But he’s definitely not complaining, as he tells us that having many projects to work on is a “good problem to have”.


The second custom IG filter in the world

The yellow helmet filter was shared by Soh in December last year.
Instagram / dudes.sg

Soh proudly wears the title of being the first Singaporean – and also the first person in Southeast Asia – to be accepted into a Facebook beta group for Instagram filter creators like himself.

He told Business Insider that he applied to Facebook’s call for applications and was accepted with the first batch of 20 creators in October last year.

Being part of the private group means Soh can upload and view custom filters that other creators have published. Currently, Soh estimates that there are around 11,000 people in the group, including 32 based in Singapore.

That’s not all: Soh is also the man behind the world’s second – and Singapore’s first – custom-made Instagram filter in the entire world.

The filter, made in collaboration with non-profit organisation LabourArty, was aimed at raising awareness for foreign workers in Singapore.

But while that’s a lot to crow about, the humble entrepreneur said he didn’t tell his friends and family about the beta group, as he would rather “show off” through his actual work instead.


Actively seeks out new technology

Soh came up with the idea of using customised VR technology to immerse dementia patients in places familiar to them such as their old homes or neighborhoods.
Instagram / dude.sg

When asked if the speed of technological advancements would ever become a problem, Soh said it was the contrary for him. “That is an excitement. I want new things. I will actively seek out new technology,” he said.

 

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Mind Palace takes elderly residents on a culinary adventure in VR! Where they witness the chef preparing food in front of them in VR, then get to indulge in the food immediately after. This experience is designed to engage all 5 senses, including taste and smell to simulate minds and perhaps trigger nostalgic memories. The idea came from working with the knowledgable therapists at the Society for the Aged Sick. and would not have been realised without the support of the following wonderful people and organisations: @liaofanhawkerchan – Michelin Star awardee, Hawker Chan for being so supportive! @visit_singapore – STB for bringing Mind Palace and Hawker Chan together in Hanoi @AirAmber – for being awesome partners St Luke’s Eldercare – for having us back time and again. and ofcourse the Mind Palace team – @gracealways57 @dude.sg @thatfeat More deliciousness to come! Carrot cake from @carrotcubes and breakfast Kaya toast from Ya Kun! #dementiacare #eldercare #nursinghome #vr #food #dementia #elderly #passionmadepossible

A post shared by Mind Palace (@mindpalacevr) on

For example, his main focus was on VR last year, but he has been focusing more on incorporating augmented reality (AR) into his work this year.

One example is the four AR filters he created for Tiger Beer’s district bottles earlier in June. The effects, viewable from a smartphone, bring four Singapore districts – Chinatown, Bugis, Katong and Tiong Bahru – to life.

The Red House at Katong AR effect (left) and Tiong Bahru old school flats AR effect (right) created by Soh.
Business Insider / Rachel Tay

Read also: Tiger Beer hid AR features on its Singapore-themed bottles – but you’ll only find them on these 4 designs

“I don’t marry myself to a certain kind of technology,” Soh, who describes his job as an “ever-changing” one, said.

He added that if a project required him to learn another language, he would do it – as long as he was interested in it, and for the right price, of course.


Want to work in AR? Use it as a hobby first

Currently, Soh works from home, where he can play with his niece and nephews whenever he feels like taking a break from work.
Instagram / dude.sg

While Soh’s roles as a tech artist and Instagram filter creator seems – for the lack of a better description – very cool, he warned that people who want to make a living as a tech artist will not “have a good time” because the market for such jobs is currently not yet as mature as others.

His suggestion for those who are genuinely interested in experimenting with AR – such as creating Instagram filters – is to try playing around with the relevant programmes first.

“Try it out as a hobby first. If jobs happen to come by, that’s great,” Soh said, acknowledging that he is lucky to be swarmed by projects.

When Business Insider asked Soh if people interested in working as a tech artist can expect to have a work-life balance, he said: “I guess if your work is your life, it would be quite balanced.”

“It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it.”

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