Facebook is betting big on augmented reality.
Kicking off the annual F8 developer conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans for an open augmented reality platform to allow third-party developers to build AR features for the cameras within Facebook family of apps, including, Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, among others.
After making some jokes about sharing the hashtag #F8 with the new Fast and the Furious film, Zuckerberg got down to business. He said Facebook’s goal is to mix the physical and digital worlds. Zuckerberg envisioned a future where people won’t have to buy a huge TV because an augmented reality device could project it on the wall.
Zuckerberg always assumed that would come in the form of glasses or a headset, but he said smartphones are the first great AR devices. They give people the ability to layer game worlds on top of the real world — think Pokémon Go — add masks and filters over faces and recognize objects, among many other things.
But even with the growing capabilities of smartphones, we are still in the early phases of augmented reality, Zuckerberg said, and more tools will come in the future. Zuckerberg confirmed to Recode prior to the conference that Facebook is building its own “AR Hardware.”
“We are not using preliminary tools today because we prefer preliminary tools, we are using preliminary tools because we are still early in the journey to create better ones,” Zuckerberg said. “In order 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 their own camera and get a lot of people to use it.”
Facebook has been steadily adding camera capabilities to all its apps in anticipation of its big AR push. Zuckerberg showed off the possibilities of this new platform during his talk. He showed a photo of a breakfast, dropped in some 3D text and then added some sharks swimming around the bowl. He displayed a photo of the interior of Facebook’s Seattle office, turned it into a 3D photo and then filled the room with a flood of skittles.
In the future, Facebook wants to really hone in on locations so people can leave virtual notes for friends in very specific places, such as a home refrigerator or a menu at a restaurant.
The Camera Effects Platform, as Facebook calls its new AR push, includes several key features. Frame Studio is a web-based tool that allows anyone with a profile or Page to design frames for use on profile pictures or in the new Facebook camera. This feature is available starting today.
AR Studio is a tool that lets users build their own AR experiences, and it is now in closed beta for Mac
Zuckerberg said it will take some time before Facebook’s AR ambitions come to life. Not only does Facebook have to keep building out their products, but third-party developers have to get into the new features and build their own experiences.
“It’s going to take awhile for this to develop,” Zuckerberg said. “There is a lot in here that we are going to roll out over time, your experience isn’t going to change dramatically over night.”
Facebook streamed Tuesday’s keynote on Facebook Live: