Facebook Dives Deeper Into AR

Expands entry into field with open platform focused on camera-based augmented reality apps and services
Facebook AR.jpg

Taking further aim at Snapchat, Facebook used its F8 developer conference Tuesday to introduce an “open” augmented reality platform that initially  focus on in-app cameras.

“We see the beginning of a new platform” with AR, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during his F8 keynote, stressing that AR also needs an open platform to flourish.

“We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform,” he said, calling it a “first step” into the world of AR for Facebook. He said the rolling out of cameras on apps was “act I,” and the new AR platform represents “act II.”

“To create better tools, first we need an open platform where any developer in the world can build for augmented reality without having to first build a camera and get a lot of people to use it,”  Zuckerberg said.

He said Facebook’s AR platform, launching today in closed beta form for developers and factoring in 3D, object recognition and precise, location-based capabilities, will open the market up to developers and pave the way for thousands of AR options.

Starting with basic AR affects like facemasks and art frames, Facebook’s platform will also be made to support augmented reality games and other use cases.

“It will take a while for this to develop,” Zuckerberg stressed, noting that Facebook’s initial AR focus on smartphones, but its underlying technology will also be woven into other platforms such as AR goggles.

“We’re going to push this augmented reality platform forward,” he said, adding that AR and VR “go hand-in-hand,” a clear reference that Facebook-owned Oculus remains a key part of the company’s future.

Zuckerberg briefly said that Aquila, an emerging solar-powered plane that provides broadband connectivity, is preparing for its second flight.

As for technologies that are further out on the horizon, he said Facebook’s Building 8 unit is also working on direct brain interfaces that, some day, will enable one to communicate “using only your mind.”