Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) talked up the importance of augmented reality (AR) and announced the camera is the first mainstream AR platform at a keynote during the company’s F8 developer conference.
The company announced the ‘Camera Effects Platform’, which gives developers the ability to build AR tools for the camera such as photo frames, interactive effects and masks. Developers will also have access to tools including Frames Studio and AR Studio, along with hand tracking and body skeletal tracking tools.
Zuckerberg said he originally expected spectacles to be the first mainstream AR device, but now believes the camera is in pole position following the success of “primitive versions” of AR on smartphones including Pokemon Go and face filters.
While others may have thought those services were just a millennial fad, Facebook saw “the beginning of a new platform”, he said.
Facebook wanted to create an open platform where developers could build their own filters and games so users have thousands of options to choose from.
Zuckerberg explained the three important use cases around which AR will develop are: displaying information like directions directly onto roads or buildings; adding digital objects onto a physical space, such as a virtual chess board on a table; and enhancing existing objects such as face filters.
He also believes many things in real life, such as a television, can be digital instead of physical, which essentially makes “our physical reality better”, and explains why AR is an important trend.
In on-stage demonstrations, users could add effects including steam coming out of their coffee mug, or a rain cloud watering a plant. These effects look very similar to the 3D objects Snapchat announced earlier this week.
The only time he hinted at how Facebook could generate revenue from this was when he showed an example of how users can add an information card on to a wine bottle with details about where to get it and “maybe in the future a link to buy it”, adding some use cases “will be fun and others are going to be useful”.
He said a whole new genre of AR games are coming, as is AR street art where users will point their screens to an empty wall and see art that would normally not be possible in the physical world. Users will also be able to leave digital notes for their friends, for instance, in a restaurant telling them the best dishes.
The Facebook CEO clarified it will take time for his predictions to become a reality: “User experiences won’t dramatically change overnight”.
“Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to all our apps I am confident we are the ones who will push this forward,” he concluded.
During the keynote, Facebook also launched Facebook Spaces in beta for the Oculus Rift, a VR app where users “hang out with friends in a fun, interactive virtual environment as if you were in the same room.” A glimpse of this technology was shown at F8 last year.
VP of messaging products David Marcus introduced Messenger 2.0, which offers users the ability to add a bot directly into a group chat and is being prepared to offer music services, first via Spotify and latterly Apple Music.
A new artificial assistant for Messenger, M, will pop up during group chats to make suggestions, starting with group food ordering.
Since the Messenger Platform debuted a year ago, it built up more than 1.2 billion monthly active users, 100,000 developers and 100,000 monthly active bots. Some 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month.