Facebook will rely on an army of outside developers to contribute augmented reality image filters and interactive experiences to its new Camera Effects platform. After today’s Facebook F8 conference, the first effects will become availabe inside Facebook’s Camera feature on smartphones, but the Camera Effects platform is designed to eventually be compatible with future augmented reality hardware such as eyeglasses.
While critics thought Facebook was just mindlessly copying Snapchat with its recent Stories and Camera features in Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, Zuckerberg tells TechCrunch his company was just laying the groundwork for today’s Camera Effects platform launch.
Facebook is now allowing developers to apply for access to the closed beta of the platform’s AR Studio tool. Meanwhile, anyone can use the Frame Studio to upload simple, static overlaid image filters that will appear in Facebook Camera to their friends or a Page’s fans. There’s no need for coding knowledge to use Frame Studio, you just upload an image. For now Facebook won’t allow any branding or advertising unless pre-approved, though it will eventually monetize the platform, with a spokesperson saying “We are focused on making this product great for people before introducing paid ways for businesses to participate.”
Developers could make entertaining visual experiences like AR selfie masks, informational tools like overlaid ratings on businesses, interactive games, and mind-bending art that Mark Zuckerberg says would be impossible to create in the real world. Meanwhile, users will be able to add augmented reality notes to different specific locations, so they could tell friends their favorite dish at a restaurant.
Facebook is now allowing developers to apply for access to the closed beta of the platform. It will allow developers to use precise location, object recognition, and depth detection to create their effects. Facebook’s camera will be able to recognize specific objects like a coffee cup, and surface related effects like steam coming off the cup or sharks swimming inside the coffee.
Developers can user three inputs to trigger their augmented reality effects: facial detection (but not identity recognition), sensors such as the gyroscope and location, and Scripting APIs to pull in data from other apps. Launch parnters and experiences include Manchester United pulling in soccer match data and “GOOAAALL!” image overlays with crowd noises, while game developer EA has built an Mass Effect-themed helmet mask that pulls in stats from your progress in the game. Nike can overlay a sweatband on your head and pull in your recent running route as an overlaid map.
AR Studio developers can also make effects for Facebook Live, with effects launching today including an overlaid viewer polling This or That feature and comment hashtags that surface a Giphy Live animated GIF the broadcaster can show on-screen.
The real world is huge. Bigger than even Facebook can fill with augmented reality experiences. By opening this developer platform, Facebook doesn’t have to build everything by itself. While Snapchat might have had a headstart in bringing AR to consumers, Facebook has just mapped out how it plans to take augmented reality several steps further.