The Future Of Facebook

Is life better through rose-colored glasses, or a virtual reality lense?

Facebook’s major development of AR/VR tools and features was the focus at the company’s annual F8 Developer Conference on April 19th in San Jose, California.

“Before the election and before all the fake news scandals, there was the utopian view of how Facebook is making the world more open and more connected and lifting people up and benefiting them. Now with some of the tragedies around Facebook Live, that vision has been really tarnished,” contributing editor of tech industry blog Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling said.

That utopian view seems to be the driving force behind Facebook’s new virtual reality application called Spaces. Back in 2014 when Facebook purchased virtual reality company Oculus for a modest 2 billion dollars, many questioned why and how the social networking giant would break into the VR world.

While other VR apps are extremely interactive, they’re mostly geared towards the individual experience. Spaces is unique in the sense that it promotes socialization with your real friends, in a not-so-real place.

Using an Oculus Rift headset, you can login through your Facebook account. Your photos are used to help select your avatar- a Bitmoji coming to life. Once you’re in Spaces, you can interact with Facebook friends who also have the headset. Panoramic photos can be turned into full 360 degree environments, in which you can use a marker to draw 3D objects, check your cartoon self out in a mirror, use a selfie-stick to take pictures with friends and then post them on your real Facebook feed.

While the virtual reality application is geared for a small niche among Facebook users, (Spaces can only be used if you have a $500 and up Oculus Rift headset), Zuckerberg and his team are also striving to be at the forefront of augmented reality.

Augmented reality is the more attainable, mainstream version of the two. After seeing the success of rival Snapchat’s facial filters, and the success of Pokemon Go last summer, Facebook is working to help users manipulate the real world around them rather than creating a new one.

“We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform,” Zuckerberg declared during his keynote address at the conference. He went on to show the beta platform’s features like basic facial filters similar to Snapchat.

Things got exciting when Zuckerberg introduced the concept of using SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) to add 3D objects that have a realistic relationship with the objects around them. In a demonstration, what started as a simple picture of breakfast was transformed into breakfast with realistic sharks circling the bowl, the depth and perception perfectly captured.

While these developments make VR and AR more attainable to the general public, it’s still hard to say how far it will get off the ground. Some people believe that Facebook is becoming too encompassing, while some business see the changes as a marketing opportunity. But, Zuckerberg’s big picture has a more noble agenda.

“In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us,” Zuckerberg wrote in a manifesto back in February.

In what ways do you see Facebook’s new developments bettering our future?