Back in 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisioned augmented reality (AR) as a future of technology, while addressing developers at the Annual F8 Developer Conference (F8). With over 2 billion active users on Facebook, let us peek though the evolution of its AR platform.

Zuckerberg was fascinated by the augmented reality concept right when he was first exposed to Oculus Go headset. He said, “I used to think that glasses were going to be the first mainstream augmented reality platform,” at his keynote at F8 in 2017. Contradicting him, Oculus Research Chief Scientist Michael Abrash noted that consumer-ready augmented reality glasses will not see the light of the day for at least 10 years from now.

Meanwhile, the world was watching the glimpses of augmented reality on Smartphone through AR games such as Pokemon Go and AR filters available on Snapchat.

Augmented Reality

Zuckerberg was fascinated by the augmented reality concept right when he was first exposed to Oculus Go headset. Source: Facebook

Phase One of Facebook Augmented Reality

The Facebook founder then intended to configure augmented reality in an entirely different setup. He announced, “We are going to make the camera the first augmented reality platform,” during the two-day F8 summit. Zuckerberg launched AR Studio in a closed beta version for another debut tool, Facebook Camera Effects. AR Studio then was accessible to over 2,000 brands, publishers and artists, encouraging them to design and develop animated masks, frames, and other AR effects.

Preceding the F8, the social media giant added an AR camera and a series of filters and effects to its app naming it “Phase One” of AR integration. This was to give a feel of AR on a familiar platform to its widespread users or “database” and hence collecting the data to improve upon the algorithm.

Opening Up AR Platform For All

Later in April 2017, Facebook opened up the doors for third-party developers and 3D artists to explore its Camera Effects platform in AR Studio. It encouraged creators to build interactive photo and video effects. Adding to this, Ficus Kirkpatrick, Facebook Engineering Director posted in a blog that the platform will also incorporate World Effects technology (detailed later) to its augmented reality platform in the near future.

FB Augmented Reality

Zuckerberg launched AR Studio for another debut tool, Facebook Camera Effects in 2017 F8. Source: Facebook

Kirkpatrick wrote, “By opening AR Studio to all creators, we’re taking steps toward making AR more a part of everyday life. We’ve been continuously advancing the capabilities of the platform with improved face tracking, new graphics capabilities, better scripting and now World Effects.”

World Effects

In December 2017, Facebook rolled out World Effects technology in AR Studio. The idea here was to let people augment their surroundings with 3D objects instead of using only their selfies. Herein, the user could add a floating heart or a 3D word bubble like love, bae, miss you to the subject in the picture. And of course, it is widely known that Facebook World Effects is yet another copied feature from Snapchat.

Fresh Version of Facebook AR Studio

Similar to 2017, augmented reality continued to be the core theme of the Facebook Annual Developer Conference in this year too. Yet this time the social media giant’s approach is surrounded by building stunning AR experience included from simple masks to interactive games across diverse platforms.

Augmented Reality FB Camera

Facebook landed the capabilities of AR Camera Effects on its family of apps in 2018 F8. Source: Facebook

Stepping up the capabilities of AR Camera Effects, Facebook landed them on its family of apps including Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook Lite. In fact, these apps are integrated with new sets of AR filters on their respective camera settings.

"We could've just brought over the AR filters from Facebook to Instagram, but we recognize that the two networks are very different," said Kirkpatrick. “While Facebook is more for friends and family, Instagram has a greater emphasis on brands and personalities.” Kylie Jenner, NBA, Jiffpom, Liza Koshy, Baby Ariel, Ariana Grande, Vogue and BuzzFeed are few of the launch partners for closed beta testing of AR integration in Instagram.

Similarly, Messenger is a more commerce-orientated app and hence integrated with particular AR overlays. Presently available in closed beta version, users connected with Sephora, KIA, Nike or ASUS on Messenger can access individual brand-designed AR filters through a dedicated button.

Augmented Reality Facebook

In December 2017, Facebook rolled out World Effects technology in AR Studio. Source: Facebook

New Tools Added

Moving ahead, other than compounding on customer base to its AR experiment, Facebook also introduced additional tools for creators to boost AR Studio software during 2018 F8.

It debuted an advanced AR Target Tracker configured with face-hand-body tracking and more movements to AR experiences. Likewise, the Patch Editor tool enables creators controlling audio, edit materials, add interactions, or design customized shaders without even writing a single code.

During this F8 event, Head of VR Rachel Franklin demonstrated a process to insert a 3D asset into a Facebook news post and present it as a digital gift. The company partnered with Sketchfab to access its 3D object library. Users can now also add inbuilt sound files to the posts available in Facebook’s free library.

Another interesting tool, Background Segmentation, introduced in AR Studio enables to (as the name suggests) segregate background and people. This feature allows users to extract the most of AR experiences by transporting them to a completely new world.

Augmented Reality AR Studio

These associated apps are integrated with new sets of AR filters on their respective camera settings. Source: Facebook

Moreover, the creators can tie specific AR effects to a particular destination so that people can enjoy those AR experiences when traveling to those places. This influence can be stretched upon the pre-determined context also, for instance, steam evaporating when a coffee cup is identified in a live scene.

The administrators of Facebook Pages publishing AR effects will soon be able to track reach and engagement of their AR creations.

Building Instant AR Experiences

Having said that, Zuckerberg and his AR team are putting efforts that are constant, innovative, relevant and dynamic in nature.

Unlike Google's ARCore and Apple's ARKit, Facebook efforts are directed towards a different objective, reports Engadget. The former two tech titans are developing AR tools for specific purposed such as assembling furniture on IKEA or placing blocks with Lego Studio. Whereas Facebook attempts to bring shorter augmented reality experiences to its users and that too with whatever they are using right now.