Mark Zuckerberg has big plans for his company in the augmented reality space that go beyond Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters, which he outlined during today’s Facebook F8 Conference.
There, he also expanded on the ambitious ten-year master plan that Facebook unveiled last year, of which a major component was developing a viable augmented and virtual reality business. While Facebook has famously invested billions into virtual reality, notably with the acquisition of Oculus for a cool $3 billion, it looks like the social media giant’s augmented reality plan is enjoying accelerated progress.
At the annual conference, Zuckerberg discussed his company’s latest Camera Effects platform, which will give outside developers the tools to build augmented reality apps for Facebook’s camera feature on smartphones. One day, the Facebook CEO envisions selling stylish and lightweight glasses that overlay images onto the physical world. In the near-term, the idea is to turn everyone’s smartphones into augmented reality platforms that outside developers can contribute thousands of effects to it. In turn, everyone will be able to access augmented reality in everyday life.
As Zuckerberg told TechCrunch, “the first augmented reality platform that becomes mainstream isn’t going to be glasses, it’s going to be cameras.” He says that augmented reality will be brought into the mainstream in three major ways: the Facebook app’s camera will be used to display information about the real world (e.g. details about monuments and local landmarks), add digital objects to the physical world (e.g. creating a digital chessboard on your dining room table), and enhance existing objects (sort of like Snapchat filters).
While waiting at the doctor’s office for example, Zuckerberg says that kids will be able to play interactive games against each other through their smartphones, using the waiting room table as a board. “Through the lens of the camera you can see this tower defense game where all these bad guys come in and you have to swat them in order for them to go away before they get to you,” he said.
It may also mean that street artists can leave digital murals on public buildings and tag their local mailbox without incurring the wrath of the law. Or, you can use the same function to leave a note for your girlfriend or boyfriend on the refrigerator. More broadly, Zuckerberg envisions using online relationships, communities, and interactions to reinforce those in the physical world, likening augmented reality to “the platonic form” of “digital and virtual reality.”
“The idea is that when you become friends with someone on Facebook, your relationship gets stronger in real life. You bring your community online and your physical community gets stronger,” Zuckerberg said to USA Today. “So it’s not one or the other, you can actually mix these two together. And what augmented reality is like in a lot of ways is the platonic form of being able to mix digital and virtual reality.”
As a more concrete example, Zuckerberg says that his augmented reality vision will enable friends to watch TV together by casting a TV app on a blank wall, doing away with physical TV sets. “We don’t need a physical TV. We can buy a $1 app TV and put it on the wall and watch it,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s actually pretty amazing when you think about how much of the physical stuff we have doesn’t need to be physical. It could just be digital and created by kids all around the world who don’t need access to a factory to build a TV.”