Facebook has confirmed that they are working on augmented reality. CEO Mark Zuckerberg established this during a virtual reality talk at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.
Augmented reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real world environment whose elements are augmented. It is a bit different from virtual reality. Facebook’s announcement isn’t exactly unexpected, but is certainly exciting. Facebook acquired virtual reality startup Oculus for $2 billion in July of 2014, and Oculus has already begun shipping units of its flagship virtual reality headset, in a partnership with Samsung.
Michael Abrash of Facebook said that virtual reality is basically already here, and augmented reality is soon to come. According to Abrash, “It’s very interesting; it’s something we’d all use if it worked well. It’s kind of seamless. Maybe it’ll be contacts [or glasses]. You’ll have something on and it’ll be VR and AR as you choose. But right now the VR tech is past the knee of the curve. For AR, it’s harder. There are a whole host of challenges — how you do the optics and displays and get photos onto the eyes, how you have something that’s socially acceptable and comfortable all day. I think VR is here now, I think AR will be here, but it’s a long road to get there.”
Zuckerberg explains, “What Facebook is, is a way to give people a voice to share anything that they want in any form of medium with any audience they want. Certainly this more immersive content will be an increasing portion of what gets shared. But another part of the beauty of Internet communication is it’s asynchronous. [But there will be] use cases where you can be in person with someone, doing surgery remotely, that you very much need to be synchronous.”
Augmented reality is different from virtual reality in that it allows users to keep a connection with the world around them, whereas virtual reality is fully immersive. Augmented reality changes a user’s vision and gives them the opportunity to interact more with the world. For example, a user could be walking down the street and look at a business and be able to see its reviews or the number of likes it has on Facebook. Especially when combined with the facial recognition software Facebook has on hand, augmented reality could have a wide array of uses.
According to Zuckerberg, “If you think about phones, it’s still a little awkward to take it out of your pocket. In the future, if you want to look around you should be able to look around. If you want to select something, you should be able to look at it.”