We’ve given Facebook it’s fair share of grief over the past couple of years. Losing people to Instagram? Acquire it. Worried about not getting a seat the table of virtual reality? Buy out Oculus. Losing people to Snapchat? Copy its most popular tools and features. We won’t bother mentioning failed experiments like the Facebook phone. These all aren’t exactly the signs of an innovative company that will lead us into the delicate waters of augmented reality and virtual reality.
However, Zuckerberg’s next big move that he announced at F8 this week, is undoubtedly correct. Facebook announced a number of interesting things over the course of the two-day event, including some interesting ideas about virtual reality in its new Spaces app.
But the most important of these was in reference to augmented reality and the “mainstreaming” of such technology. Essentially, Facebook is pushing strongly into the arena of augmented reality, but not in the way that a lot of the large tech companies have assumed it would happen.
In an interview with _TechCrunch, he makes his vision clear: “The first augmented reality platform that becomes mainstream isn’t going to be glasses, it’s going to be cameras.”
While most of the major tech companies are doing the hard work of getting the public comfortable with putting large pieces of hardware over their faces, Facebook is right: they’ve been skipping the step of first getting people used to the idea of augmented reality in general. Before the general public will ever want to put anything over their eyes (or even on a pair of glasses), they need to be convinced that augmented reality has some benefit worthy of it.
The proof was in the downfall of Google Glasses. The reason the public ended up turning against (the admittedly really cool product), was that it wasn’t clear what the benefit of such a huge amount of commitment. It’s the same reason smartwatches are struggling so much in the market. Tech companies have just not given the mainstream public a definitive reason for making the purchase.
More and more applications like Snapchat and Pokemon Go are the reasons that people will eventually be interested in implementing AR technology more directly into their daily lives in the form of glasses or headsets.
By building an open AR platform based around the technology we all already have in our pockets, Facebook is letting developers and users invest in the technology creatively. Everyday users will have access to making 2D effects and filters using Frame Studio, while 3D effects will be open to developers with its Camera Effects platform. Facebook is attempting to do for augmented reality the same thing Apple did for mobile app development.
When accused of copying Snapchat, Zuckerberg told TechCrunch_ that it was only a way of getting to an open AR camera platform. I still don’t know if I believe Zuckerberg’s excuse for sure, but he’s right about the next step in bringing augmented reality to the masses.