How Facebooks bet on AR/VR/MR will completely slingshot the industry forward.

Yesterday was a big day for AR/MR and even VR. Facebook announced some pretty powerful new features and even tools for creating AR content for the Facebook camera platform. They announced Facebook Places, a social VR platform and a more rich AR strategy.

The envisioned future form factor for AR/MR. We are getting closer to this with every click of Moore’s law.

Industry facelift.

One of the biggest things from Facebook, was not the fact that they are betting hard on AR/MR. This felt very anticipated, last year it was all about AI, this year the focused shifted towards AR/MR.

What was one of the biggest surprises however was AR Studio a pice of software that allows for easy creating of AR content, face masks, text, art and more. Putting this inside Facebook Camera Utilities is a smart move by Facebook. This means that ease of creation, and access to consumers are within the same platform. Positioning Facebook ahead of the likes of Google and Apple.

This will mean a lot for some of the smaller AR companies out there. The window for them to get stuff out there definitely shrunk. Having a small startup focusing on SLAM, face recognition, body tracking and so on will soon abolish, since a lot of these packages will become widely available and open-sourced.

Advances is pattern recognition / AI

Another thing to mention here is that Facebook showed off some of it’s recent 6years worth of research on their AI (pattern recognition) efforts. And the rate at which that has improved is nothing less than astonishing.

From being able to render a 130x130 pixel cube at a couple fps. To be able to run 30 fps at 720p resolution in real-time in 2017. All of this while having the ability to track objects in frame, with a near 1.0 prediction score on all in view. The abilities don’t stop there, in real-time the AI can also identify the direction of which the human in the photo is turned, twisted, with this making it possible to do a wide range of magic tricks on the imagery.

Advancements of Pattern Recognition AI. Insane progress, all this done on a mobile device in real-time.

Content first. Hardware second.

In the light of yesterdays reveal, FB has a clear strategy around getting the content done and thought about before entering the market with some sort of wearable device. There wont be much separation from having an app running on a phone compared to a pair of glasses. But the difference in experience will be profound. The AR/MR that we saw from FB yesterday is in it’s infancy, and with advancements in foveated rendering and eye-tracking will allow companies to leap frog maybe as much as 2 steps of Moore’s Law.

Back to content first, with FB taking the lead and providing the tools to create content for AR, they are making sure that whenever the wearable hardware is ready, there is all ready a sprawling ecosystem of content and applications. Don’t by any means think this is all about putting smiles and masks on your face, this is the next generation medium, that will kill of pretty much any other screen device out there. Spatial thinking is something we as humans do by nature, and this step from FB is empowering us to move there faster than what we thought a couple of days ago.

With the new catalog of content, FB will own developers and users alike, not sure how this will hold up, because most likely Apple and Google will move a lot of the tech we saw from FB into the OS of their devices, so iOS and Android will have the same capabilities in the core. However FB does now have a head start. Maybe that’s all they need.

SNAP vs. Facebook

The race for AR has been raging in the background for quite some time, first to market with a wearable camera device (after google glass) was Snapchat with their spectacles. Now Snapchat also introduces World Lenses, after have had some lenses on the front facing camera they now introduce SLAM technology for placing 3D virtual objects in your photos and videos. Facebook are working on the same as we saw in yesterdays F8 keynote from Mark Zuckerberg.

A phones camera using SLAM technology, to make a mapp of whats on the table so you can add virtual fixed objects. Mixed Reality stuff.

Snapchat is owned by Snap Inc, and Snap inc is foremost a camera company if one are to believe the mission statement on their website.

“We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.” — Snap Inc.

With this knowledge one would be a fool not to think that the recent IPO from Snap Inc, gave them all the liquidity they would need to make this next generation spatial computer happen. Snapchat might have been started as a sexting app, but make no misstake, Snap Inc is not in it for the nude pics.

Next steps, the big bang.

During the next couple of months there will be a race to the top for some of the biggest players in the technology sector. Apple, Google, Microsoft but also other players like Meta, and Magic Leap are out there trying to grab a piece of the cake. We are living in the future, and I think Facebooks F8 Keynote yesterday is proof of that, we are no longer just thinking about AR and that it can be cool, but reality has it, that it’s now just a matter of how fast we can push technology to do our bidding, the convergence is imminent, they jumps we see in Moore’s law are getting steeper. Once one of the big players, presumably Apple, gets a AR device out there, the landscape will shift beneath our feet. And will again leap frog the entire industry to new highs.

Linus Ekenstam is a Product Designer currently working for in Barcelona, with a strong focus on Empathy & Experience Design. With a strong passion for Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality he writes articles on Medium, “Design for VR/MR/AR” and “Magic Leap — the next frontier”