Can Facebook augment its future with new AR camera push?

Dive Brief:

  • Facebook unveiled a Camera Effects Platform at its annual F8 conference for developers and also in a company blog post on Tuesday. The platform, which has a strong mobile focus but also desktop capabilities, provides a suite of tools for artists, designers and developers to build augmented reality (AR) apps for Facebook.
  • Camera Effects Platform has two core components: an AR Studio for creating masks, animations and scripted virtual effects and a Frame Studio for designing frames for profile pictures. Developers can apply to access a beta version of the platform now. 
  • In related news, Snapchat rolled out a feature it's calling New World Lenses, which open up more AR overlays for the app's rear-facing camera, per a Snap Inc. news post.

Dive Insight:

Facebook made a huge bet on virtual reality (VR) with its purchase of Oculus Rift for $2 billion in 2014, but both Oculus and VR technology, on the whole, have run into some headwinds since then.

In the meantime, AR has edged closer to the mainstream with a few breakaway successes like Pokemon Go — which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested is one of AR's "primitive use cases," per Fortune — and also Snapchat, the latter of which Facebook has repeatedly copied in recent months with a series of lookalike features for Instagram, Messenger and, most recently, its core platform. 

Now, it appears as though Facebook's early iterations of a Snapchat-like product were just one step in a larger plan centered on building the "first mainstream augmented reality platform," according to TechCrunch. That platform also has a strong mobile focus, which might be a welcome development for marketers more accustomed to building content and advertising around smartphones rather than advanced connected devices like a VR headset. 

Zuckerberg told the F8 audience that something like Pokemon Go changed his perspective on what AR's future looks like away from hardware and toward a simplified mobile focus that gives people "the ability to share what matters the most with us on a daily basis," according to Fortune. 

Other giants that loom large in the tech space, especially Apple, have also eyed AR as an advancement that could come to rival the smartphone. Unlike Facebook, Apple is reportedly eyeing wearables as a part of that revolution, and a newer player like Snapchat already has a Spectacles glasses product that links to its main app. 

The International Data Corporation forecasts a 196.4% compound annual growth rate for AR-ready headsets over the next five years or so, with shipments reaching 15 million by 2020

For a look at some of the specific features and capabilities of Facebook's new Camera platform, check out Social Media Today's write up

Filed Under: Marketing Tech Social Media Trends Corporate News Mobile
Top image credit: Facebook