If you’ve been wondering why Facebook has been adding camera modes to its apps, from Messenger to WhatsApp, over the last months, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has revealed why during the F8 developer conference keynote. He called the camera features, “act one,” and act two will be to create the first camera augmented reality platform that will integrate with each app. Get ready for AR fun like we’ve never seen before.
Launching in closed beta today, Facebook’s AR platform will be open to developers, giving them the chance to create some exciting tools, games, and even art projects. This means in the future, rather than a few dozen options, there will be thousands. While face masks and frames, like we’re already seeing in Facebook’s app, will be part of the platform; it’s technology called Simultaneous Location and Matching (SLAM) that’ll make it really cool.
By understanding precise location and its environment, the AR platform will understand depth, movement, and 3D space. Looking at a table, you can place an AR object in-camera, and it’ll stay where you put it, regardless of whether you move the camera around to view it from another angle. Beyond this, virtual lighting can be changed, and objects replicated or augmented with cool effects. For example, add AR flowers to a plant, an information card floating in virtual space to a bottle of wine, leave AR notes on the refrigerator, or scrawl AR graffiti on a table at the local bar.
Zuckerberg spoke about the usefulness of AR. He said people want to share their everyday life, but don’t want to do so if what they’re doing is mundane. Augmented reality effects can make those ordinary things more fun, and therefore more shareable.
Effects like these mentioned above are only the start. Facebook wants to add AR gaming to its apps, like turning a regular table into an AR battleground, and even AR art, like changing a blank wall into a huge 3D, animated piece of street art. If you thought Pokémon Go was bad, wait until hordes of people are staring at blank walls holding their phones out in front of them.
Facebook’s AR platform will take a while to develop, and it’s really early days; but it’ll start rolling out soon. Don’t expect the games to arrive until later this year. Zuckerberg said that although we’ll have to be patient, eventually the AR innovations will, “change the way we use our phones,” and eventually, it’s the technology that will go into those ordinary-looking AR spectacles we all want.