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article imageFacebook looks to augmented reality as its future focus

By James Walker     Apr 19, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has announced a new focus on augmented reality, unveiling a set of features for developers and users that will enable you to communicate online in VR and AR. It includes an app for hanging out in a virtual environment and new camera effects.
Facebook launched the features on day one of its F8 developers conference yesterday. The company dedicated much of its keynote event to talking about augmented reality and the role it'll play on Facebook going forward.
Facebook Spaces
Headlining the announcements is Facebook Spaces, an app Facebook claims will help you to connect with friends online. Spaces is a virtual reality app for the Oculus Rift that allows you to explore your virtual surroundings with a group of friends.
When you open Spaces, you'll be prompted to create a unique identity so others can recognise you in the world. Starting from an existing Facebook profile photo, you'll be able to customise your look and accessories to change your hairstyle and facial features. You can then join the space and invite your friends.
Facebook augmented reality features
Facebook augmented reality features
Facebook
Within the Space, a few tools are provided to let you show things to the other people present. You can draw anywhere in the air, letting you create art or start a game of tic-tac-toe. There's the option to collectively watch videos and photos shared to Facebook. You can also start a Messenger voice or video chat with other users, even if they don't have a VR headset.
Facebook said it has big ambitions for Spaces. At the moment, it seems likely to be neglected by users though. With virtual reality yet to take off and headset prices still prohibitively high, there's not a large audience for Facebook to pitch the app to.
Facebook augmented reality features
Facebook augmented reality features
Facebook
Facebook also has to overcome the issue of convincing users they even need the app. Communicating in augmented reality and drawing in the sky looks impressive at press events but doesn’t yet reflect what most people actually use their devices for. Mixed reality is still a long way from offering any value to most users.
Facebook Camera Effects Platform
Undeterred, Facebook is also adding augmented reality to its existing app. It is expanding on the recently-launched Facebook camera by launching a new "Effects Platform." Developers can now create their own interactive augmented reality masks and overlays for use in the camera. They can be attached to the environment, added to your face or motion tracked with a video.
Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook augmented reality features
Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook augmented reality features
Facebook
Facebook said the effects platform is a reflection of how people already use their phones to add virtual objects, filters and text to photos shot with their cameras. By giving app creators the power to launch augmented reality add-ons, it hopes to make Facebook Camera more popular and engaging for young users drawn in by effects and themes.
The Camera Effects Platform will begin to rollout from today. There are currently two effects available for Facebook Live, This or That and GIPHY Live. Facebook Spaces launches in beta on the Oculus Rift today. It will be expanded and brought to additional virtual reality platforms in the future.
More about Facebook, facebook spaces, facebook camera, Virtual reality, Vr