Facebook Details Smartphone-Focused AR Strategy At F8

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined the company’s future plans for augmented reality (AR) technology at their annual developer’s conference, F8 on Tuesday. The company’s short-term vision for AR includes plans to use phone cameras to overlay digital items over the real world, thus allowing them to develop the emerging technology without having to wait for AR glasses to become commercially available, Zuckerberg revealed.

Facebook’s top executive went on to demonstrate some of the company’s impressive ideas for augmented reality technology which relies on a conventional phone camera to view the user’s surroundings, then augments the reality with virtual items that it places on the screen. One of the demonstrations showed AR integration with Nike+ Run Club and how users will be able to overlay selfies and videos with their running statistics. Other potential uses would include being able to leave virtual memos for friends in bars and playing games on coffee tables, while another demonstrated a piece of AR “art” at Facebook’s headquarters. Facebook’s newly announced features are somewhat similar to a number of functionalities that were recently added by Snapchat, a Venice, Los Angeles-based social media company whose service gained momentum precisely due to its innovative use of various AR-powered features.

From Tuesday, developers will be able to begin work with AR Studio, a development environment that Facebook currently have released in closed beta. It allows designers to work on developing AR camera lenses and offers a range of tools to make the process of creating AR overlays much easier. While virtual reality (VR) and AR have the potential to change our view of computing, some industry watchers feel that the technology won’t be enjoying mainstream adoption in the near future. Regardless, according to Global Market Insights, the global market for AR technology will be worth around $165 billion in 2024, an 80-percent increase compared to where it is today. Three years ago, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion and that VR firm is now spearheading its efforts to advance both VR and AR technologies. An update on the Menlo Park-based company’s ambitions in the segment is expected to follow later this year.