Facebook’s announcement that it’s working on technology that will enable people to use their minds to type was certainly one of the most impressive innovations revealed during this week’s developers’ conference. However, while that tool is still in the research and development stage, Mark Zuckerberg also laid bare his ambitious plans to tap into AR technology in the shorter term.
During his keynote speech, the company’s founder revealed two new developer tools that will help turn the existing Facebook camera into a market-leading AR platform: Frame Studio and AR Studio. The goal is to create functionality that will allow people to add layers to whatever they see through the camera in a similar way to how Snapchat’s filters work. That could be adding 2D artwork to a photo or 3D masks that track people’s facial movement. For example, you could layer on a cat mask that shoots laser beams out of the eyes if you so desired.
Facebook is also making strides when it comes to enabling people to layer virtual objects onto the real world using their phones. For example, it’s working on technology that will soon enable you to see notes on the fridge or a wall. In a manner similar to Pokémon Go, the technology will be able to scan the environment and create virtual games that incorporate real-world objects. “This is going to be a thing in the future – people standing around looking at blank walls,” Zuckerberg said.
Reacting to the big reveal, Caspar Thykier, CEO and co-founder of Zappar, the AR app, wasn’t hugely surprised. “It was only a matter of time, given that Snapchat and Facebook continue to face off against each other to drive user engagement,” he said. He added that Facebook’s attempt to attract the more artistically inclined with the new tools “also seems to be another full-frontal assault on Snapchat’s more creatively minded audience”.
And while many retailers are already in the process of figuring out how the technology could benefit them, Facebook’s announcement could serve as a wake-up call for companies that have been slow to recognise AR’s potential. “Businesses must realise the advantages of new technologies quickly to gain a competitive advantage, particularly in this age of digital disruption,” said Conway Kosi, head of managed infrastructure services at Fujitsu, the information and communications company. “All businesses must embrace and integrate new technology now or they will fail to deal with the impact that digital disruption will undoubtedly bring.”
So whether you’re planning to use the technology for your startup or if you’re just curious to see how you’d look like as a cat, it certainly seems that the future will be augmented.