AR, VR and MR just went “live” with Facebook!!

image source (https://www.facebook.com/zuck)

Mark Zuckerberg’s influence over the presidential race is so far-reaching his own employees reportedly used an internal company poll to ask him if Facebook should try to prevent a Trump presidency. More than 1.5 billion people use Facebook. Millennials go to Facebook to get political news more than any other source. And the social network’s centrality in American politics has just been further bolstered by its partnership with ABC to stream the presidential debates live on Facebook Live.

When he launched Facebook Live last year, Zuckerberg described it as like having a TV camera in your pocket. While making real-time broadcasting available to everyone is in itself not particularly revolutionary, given that rival platforms such as Snapchat have had that capacity for years, it demonstrates that Facebook is becoming a media owner in its own right.

Facebook has handed out contracts to almost 140 media companies, including CNN and The New York Times, and celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay, to create videos for its live-streaming service. Despite appearances to the contrary, Mark Zuckerberg is adamant that Facebook remains a tech company and is not media company. Last month he told a reporter “we build the tools, we do not produce any content”.

Nonetheless TV broadcasters view Facebook a serious threat. The inherently social experience of watching live events, including but not exclusively sports, has brought a new dimension to how people use the world’s biggest social network, keeping users on the platform for longer and, in turn, creating a Facebook TV empire.

Though Facebook reportedly lost out on on the rights to stream NFL games to Twitter, it has so far succeeded in broadcasting several major sporting events including USA and NBA basketball games, the PGA Tour and Premier League matches. It has also launched Facebook Sports Stadium, a hub for social sharing around live games.

Facebook is also often first on the scene for breaking news. A total of 5.7 million watched the video of the shooting by a policeman of Philando Castile uploaded to Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds on Facebook Live. The next day, the shooting that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded in downtown Dallas

was livestreamed on Facebook Live. The events forced the social network to confront its new role as news broadcaster.

The addition of the latest in 360 video, VR and AR capabilities to Facebook Live will make the content streamed, including breaking news and sporting events, infinitely more powerful for future viewers. As Zuckerberg himself said: “Virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be the most social platforms that ever existed.”

To further hasten the democratisation of VR, Facebook recently built a new algorithm that improves amateur 360 videos by removing the unsteadiness that makes them difficult to create and watch.

The future of Facebook Live will centre on mixed reality (MR) — a combination of AR and VR that fuses the real with the virtual, creating an entirely new world for viewers to interact with as well as immerse themselves in. MR can be integrated into a live streaming experience to bring the content to life for its audiences, enhancing live video with features such as holographics and animations and allowing viewers to manipulate and act on what they are experiencing and viewing. Mixed reality is the next frontier — have no doubt Facebook Live will be at the forefront.

Post Script: This article was drafted a week ago. Since then Mark Zuckerberg shared a “live” feed on facebook yesterday, which I was fortunate enough to follow “live”. It showcased the awesome capabilities of facebook using AR and VR, to create conferences and meetings across the world in a variety of settings, blending artfully the real world with ‘avatars’ on AR to represent real participants in a conference, and even mimic their visual expressions!! Make no mistake, this will transform the way we interact with each other even in business settings.

Disclosure: I’m a fan, and an early adopter of Facebook. If Im not mistaken, since 2007 or 2008. I use it quite a bit and it has enabled me to stay close to a friends network that is globally dispersed. I am also a Non Executive Director on the board of Blippar.com, the world’s leading AR and visual discovery engine.