Last month at the yearly F8 conference Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be launching head first into Augmented Reality. Considering Facebook has already invested nearly $3 billion dollars into virtual reality to date, this is an exciting addition to the company’s growing portfolio of emerging technology.
Facebook is building a mobile application that will augment the world of the user around them through the lense of their mobile phone camera. Whether its projecting a board game onto an empty coffee table or seeing directions overlaid on the road in front of you, Facebook are convinced augmented reality powered by your mobile phone camera is the right way to bring AR to mass consumer adoption today.
Not to be confused with last year’s Pokemon Go craze (which was wrongly touted as augmented reality), Facebook is genuinely looking to map digital objects into the real world that will act and react to real world objects. What does that mean? Very simply your camera will scan your environment and through very clever software understand what its looking at allowing augmented reality projections to avoid, hide behind or even use the real world environment.
What’s so exciting about last month’s news is Facebook are aiming to fast forward the timeline for augmented reality to emerge as a consumer technology. While Microsoft’s Hololens and Google’s Magic Leap are creating quite a stir in the tech world, its obvious these wearable AR technologies are probably 5 – 10 years away for the consumer.
Facebook’s augmented reality app is in a way a solid stepping stone to fully wearable augmented reality devices, teasing and educating the general public into how AR can (excuse the pun) augmented their lives in a wide variety of ways. But what will Facebook’s augmented reality look like and what does it hint at for augmented reality as a mass consumer technology of the future?
For us at Glitch it screams “Branded Realities”.
Right now our environment, or immediate reality, is a shared common experience. If it’s the grey drab colour of your office walls or the lacklustre of your rented apartment living room, the environment is the same for whoever is in it. Personalising that environment is a costly usually rare event and whatever changes do take place happen again on a communal level with whomever uses the space.
Through technology such as Facebook’s AR Camera app and more long term wearable AR tech such as the Hololens a truly personalised reality is beginning to emerge. Imagine an office space where each employee has personalised exactly how they want to see the office, perhaps project industry news on a certain wall, play ambient music, or project their work contacts onto their desk – all personal to that individual. Extend that thought back home, perhaps your partner likes the lounge in a baby blue colour with some classic art hanging on the walls while you like it dark red with art deco paintings – no problem the lounge will be augmented to your individual preferences. Now you are sharing the same physical space, but completely different branded realities. If you are struggling to get your head around how this reality might look I suggest you watch the recently released Ghost In the Shell or the somewhat more dystopic Hyper Reality.
Now each of us have a personalised, branded reality. An augmented reality that very much represents you, arguably a projection or extension of your personality. You can now share that reality with others, invite friends or colleagues to step into your augmented reality or perhaps leave digital footprints in their own; a reminder note on their fridge or a photo you took while you were in the park. Advertisements and product branding would no longer be restricted to screens but now through your own personalised algorithm would populate into your augmented reality. Perhaps you open your real world fridge and see a projection of an ice cold bottle of beer, what a great way to entice a consumer.
If the prospect of this personalised augmented reality excites or terrifies you, the fact of the matter is this future is now just around the corner, and players like Facebook are priming the general public and consumer with stepping stone technology such as their augmented reality mobile phone app.
Finally I will be able to get some H. R. Giger art on my living room wall without the wife kicking up a fuss!