Mark Zuckerbergs social network is betting big on augmented reality, hasnt given up on VR but doesnt have much to say about the Facebook killer
As Apple has WWDC and Google has I/O, so Facebook has F8: the social networks big annual conference has steadily grown, from a way to speak to developers about the upcoming changes to its platform to an event where the whole world hears about the exciting new products coming from the House of Zuckerberg.
Facebooks chief executive may not quite have Steve Jobs infamous reality distortion field the social networks ideal world is more like an artificial reality where none of the outside world penetrates but he can still wow when he wants to. Heres the eight biggest things to take away from the San Jose event.
1) Augmented reality is Facebooks big future bet
Facebook wants you to use its camera for more than just taking pictures. If theres one message from this years F8, its that.
Sure, youll still be able to snap pics and send them to friends. But the company also wants to paste more and more detail over the real world to create a second, augmented layer.
Some of the features of this camera platform sound genuinely useful or at least, fun. Facebook wants you to share pics of your run with your pace and time superimposed over the top, for instance, and it dreams of a day when youll be able to leave a review of a restaurant by pinning it to the window. (That one feels like it would have a few kinks to work out in practice, though).
Other features seem less good. Demonstrating one simpler capability of the new camera, Zuckerberg showed that you can add a second coffee mug to your picture, so it looks like youre not having breakfast alone. Which is surely the bleakest thing ever said in a billion-dollar companys presentation.
2) Its still copying Snapchat
One word that wasnt said on stage, though: Snapchat. Which is odd, because weve seen a lot of these features before. The ephemeral messaging app/social network for hip teens in rich countries popularised the idea of the AR camera, steadily upgrading its own offering from something which simply whacked a few location-aware images over the top of a pic to facial recognition-based lenses which turn you into a dog. This is something teens like.
Facebooks photocopiers have been overheating with the pace at which its been replicating Snapchats features, so it was probably looking forward to the ability to finally overtake its rival in LA. But it was not to be: six hours before F8 started, Snapchat released its own AR functionality, which its calling World Lenses. The new lenses are slightly less feature-rich than what Facebook is promising, but unlike the Camera Platform, its already on phones now. Sure, its sneaky and underhanded to gazump Facebook like that, but Snapchats owed a bit of payback. Score? Snapchat 21: 0 Facebook.
3) Facebook hasnt given up on VR
Read more: www.theguardian.com