Two years ago, Facebook founded the founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg F8 Developers Conference keynote with enhanced reality and the introduction of Facebook's AR camera platform, now known as Spark AR.
Since then, Facebook has been exposed to an avalanche of controversy over its approach to user data, so expanded reality took the backs of Facebook's new emphasis on integrity this year. At this year's F8, when the AR part of the keynote arrived, it was quickly breezed through in less than five minutes so that the Oculus VR hardware could focus.
However, Facebook introduced several improvements of quality of life for Spark AR, including the addition of Windows support for Spark AR Studio software.
The company also added a new programming function called Blocks, which allows developers to split a project into smaller portions that can be reused in other projects. Developers can share blocks with other developers in the same way they would share code types.
Facebook has also rebuilt its Patch Editor, a visual programming interface that simplifies complex AR effects, with a new user interface, which makes the block function possible. In addition, the new patch editor will allow developers to add sound effects, such as Snapchat-like voice modifiers and content responsive to music.
"In 2017, we introduced the world into a powerful AR software series, called AR Studio. Since then, we have been working on a huge global community of creators and developers to help shape and define the Spark AR platform," Michael Slater, Product Manager for AR on Facebook, in a statement.
Since last year's F8, over one billion people have been using the AR experience driven by Spark AR. Hundreds of millions of people use these experiences each month over Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Portal. And all these experiences have one thing in common: they are built with Spark AR Studio. "
The company revealed also that Spark AR for Instagram, originally announced at F8 2018 and running at the end beta since October 2018, would be opened to all developers this summer. Facebook will also expand the market to its portal video call pad (which supports Spark AR) to Canada in June, and Europe this fall.
While Facebook characterized the update as "major", it is more a solid step forward for developers rather than a big step. However, the company shared a video that teases some new features to come "in the near future" when Kimberly Archer, director of development marketing for AR / VR, returned to the scene. First, the video shows a couple of attempts before you buy experiences with home and sunglasses in a store, which signals a transition to more e-commerce tools.
Another vignette shows an AR effect triggered by scanning a theater, like Snapchat's recently released Landmark AR -tool. Finally, the video previews Spark AR's new sound-sensitive effects, with on-screen content vibrating to music.
While the AR updates were a bit more turnkey this year, Facebook managed to get some starry power to actor Chris Hemsworth shared an AR campaign for Men in Black International using computer vision to identify objects and label them as terrestrial or alien, and adds a virtual alien mask to individuals classified as the latter. Hemsworth said the effect is available on the Facebook camera today, but then he made the flash drive flashy, so I don't know what to believe anymore.
"I believe that the enhanced and virtual reality has the potential for much more personal and intimate experiences," said Zuckerberg under the keynote. "With AR, instead of having your face in the phone and someone else's face in their, the computer environment will now put digital objects in the real world, they will be able to interact and actually be presented together."
So, while AR cannot be the leading player in this chapter in Facebook's development, it still has an important role to play in the company's immediate and long-term future.