Facebook Debuts the Future of Augmented Reality, and It’s on Mobile

Social giant introduces the Camera Effects Platform

At Facebook's F8 conference today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a preview of the platform's plans for augmented reality. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

Hours after Snapchat debuted features for augmenting the world beyond silly filters for your face, Facebook did the same.

Today at its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, Calif., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for augmented reality, explaining that the phone camera should be the first AR device—rather than AR glasses like others have tried in the past.

“We all know where we want this to get eventually,” Zuckerberg said in his opening keynote. “We want glasses or eventually contact lenses that look and feel normal but that let us overlay all kinds of information and digital objects on top of the real world.”

While Facebook in the past has been quick to copy Snapchat (often shamelessly), today’s updates could be the first time it leaps ahead of the company, providing more advanced forms of AR. (For example, Snapchat’s update allows a user to decorate their world, while Facebook’s platform will let them personalize and interact with it.)

To Zuckerberg, AR can be split into three use cases: It can display information like directions and messages, add digital objects to surfaces and also enhance existing objects.

For example, he showed a video of AR sharks swimming around a bowl of cereal, and a room where the floor is suddenly flooded with water. In another example, he showed how two friends using Nike Run Club can display their routes right within Facebook Messenger. In more examples, a blank white wall becomes painted with colors, and a dad plays a game with his kids where they smash AR robots marching around a can.

All of this and more will be possible through Facebook’s Camera Effects Platform, which will be available to developers in closed beta starting today. To create realistic objects, Facebook will be using an artificial intelligence tool called simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) which can do things like create messages that slide across the screen. Users can then leave these messages for friends at a coffee shop or on the fridge at home for family.

“This isn’t just about finding a Pokemon around a one-block radius,” Zuckerberg said.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.