Facebook Is Going All In on Augmented Reality

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg focuses on augmented reality and camera apps at Facebook's F8 conference
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Have you noticed that most Facebook apps these days have a camera button built in? Well, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, now it’s time to use those buttons to turn on augmented reality for just about everything you’re doing in Facebook’s world.

“We are making the camera the first augmented reality platform,” Zuckerberg said, kicking off Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Jose this morning. “I used to think glasses would be the first mainstream augmented reality platform,” he said. But he’s changed his mind.

By “camera,” Zuckerberg really means the camera button (which allows users to directly access a mobile device’s actual camera) and related photo processing tools in Facebook and related apps. Now, Zuckerberg said, Facebook is going to roll out tools to allow developers to create augmented reality experiences that can be reached through that photo feature. These tools will include precise location mapping, creation of 3D objects from 2D images, and object recognition.

Developers, he expects, will be able to apply these tools to generate virtual images that appear to interact directly with the real environment. For example, fish will swim around on your kitchen table and appear to go behind your real cereal bowl, virtual flowers will blossom on a real plant, virtual steam will come out of a real coffee mug, or a virtual companion’s mug will appear next to yours on your table in order to make your breakfast routine feel a little less lonely. Augmented reality will also allow users to leave notes for friends in specific locations—say, at a table in a particular restaurant—or let them view pop-up labels tagged to real world objects.

“Augmented reality will let us mix the digital and the physical,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote address to 4000 developers, “and that will make our physical reality better.”

Zuckerberg also predicted the advent of augmented reality street art, and suggested that as technology makes people working in traditional jobs more productive, more and more people will contribute to society through the arts.

Zuckerberg said that it will take a while to roll some of these experiences out into the world, but developers can get started now, with a closed Beta version of its AR Studio software now launching. Also available to users beginning today: a limited library of augmented effects.

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