Facebook’s next big thing is augmented reality.
At the company’s annual developer conference on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the wraps off his plans to “mix the physical and digital in whole new ways” using AR, the nascent and potentially revolutionary technology being worked on by Apple, Microsoft, Snap, Magic Leap, and others.
Starting Tuesday, Facebook will give developers the ability to build their own AR effects for the Facebook app’s camera. The effects will be relatively basic initially and function similarly to Snapchat’s lenses, which can place puppy dog ears or a flower crown on your face.
But eventually, Facebook plans to use AR through its app’s camera to show things like menu information at a restaurant, virtual steam rising from a real coffee cup, and virtual, 3D art that cascades from a blank wall.
Zuckerberg called AR the next major computing platform, a sentiment that has been echoed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and other tech executives. Facebook has so far invested over $US2 billion into virtual reality through its 2014 acquisition of Oculus, but Zuckerberg said that AR represents a larger opportunity to reinvent computing.
He said the end-goal for AR is lightweight glasses that display virtual objects in the real world, like the technology being worked on by Magic Leap and Apple.
Facebook’s move to open up its AR capabilities to other apps and services is another direct attack on Snapchat, which is credited with pioneering AR camera effects but has yet to open its technology to developers. Zuckerberg also teased an upcoming games platform for AR that will let developers create experiences like a virtual chess board that can hover over a physical table.
“Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to our apps, I’m confident that we’re going to be the ones to push this augmented reality platform forward,” said Zuckerberg.