Facebook taking augmented reality (AR) to the mass market

At this years Facebook F8 conference in San Jose, California Zuckerberg (2017) announced the launch of a suite of new AR features and tools for the Facebook camera that are collectively branded the Camera Effects Platform. And this is good news if you’ve ever wanted turn your face into an animated character or fill your home with virtual Skittles or maybe play virtual chess on your dining table.

Facebook Camera Effects, 2017

Facebook actually released the first Camera Effects April 2017 for iOS and Android which include several branded effects, masks and interactive filters. Some of these new features are available today and to the average consumer this will appear at first very similar to SnapChat’s own live filters. The difference is not only the greater user base with over 1.23 billion daily active users (DAUs) on Facebook but also the room scanning technology and most importantly Facebook’s commitment to create a medium for independent developers and artists.

Facebook AR Studio, 2017

3D artists, developers and organisations who are members of the Facebook Developers program can apply today for a beta version of the AR Studio. This toolset will enable individuals and organisations to create exciting new AR experiences that take advantage of the Camera Effects Platform. The demonstrations highlight a sophisticated framework for constructing AR experiences including 3D object placement, animations and user interaction. There’s no details yet of how to construct the more advanced technologies announced during the F8 Keynote such as Simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) or object recognition. But it’s safe to assume that these technologies will be coming to the AR Studio toolset. It’s also not yet entirely clear how these experiences will reach the consumer audience. Presumably it will follow prior distribution concepts utilised by Facebook’s other platforms such as Pages and Apps. These platforms typically saw new content discovered via the News Feed either by direct advertisement or peer to peer sharing and required the user to opt-in.

One way or another consumers will soon find new filters alongside the launch filters available today. And this future state, soon to be reality, will allow artists to take AR experiences that explore the boundaries of AR technology to the mass market faster than ever before.

Anton Wintergerst, Mobile Developer

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