Facebook’s (FB) founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday talked about “augmented reality” and other developments at the company’s annual developer conference, “F8.”
Central within the augmented reality talk was a newly announced software application called “AR Studio,” which lets people create objects such as masks that they can paint over what is seen through a phone’s camera. It’s reminiscent of the “filters” that already exist in Snap’s (SNAP) Snapchat application. Indeed, some people commenting during Facebook’s presentation dismissed AR Studio as being something of a “ripoff” of Snapchat.
The company announced something called “Facebook Spaces,” which is a virtual reality application that is in beta testing in the Oculus Rift VR headset that is sold by Facebook’s Oculus unit. Spaces lets a person have an avatar of themselves as they interact with the avatars of fellow Facebook contacts.
“It’s a place for you to be yourself in VR with your real friends,” said a company representative onstage. “All the people and the photos and videos you interact with are brought into the virtual world.”
If your Facebook “friends” aren’t using Spaces, the company says you can call them on the Messenger application, thereby “opening a window into your virtual world” to others on Facebook.
Zuckerberg’s keynote pitch discussed augmented reality in broad strokes, promising that someday people will have “direct brain interfaces” that will “one day let you communicate using only your mind.”
In more prosaic terms, he discussed current examples of augmented reality, such as having a digital artwork displayed on walls of the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park.
Zuckerberg got some laughs when he showed a picture of a bunch of people staring at what is in fact a blank wall, saying that “staring at a blank wall is going to be a thing.”
In other ongoing developments, Facebook is working on something previously announced code-named the “Santa Cruz Headset,” which would be a “standalone” virtual reality headset, freed of the thick cables required for the current Rift headset. “Just grab it and put it on your head,” is the idea. The headset has four cameras on it that track a person’s behavior as they move in the real world, and uses the data to move the virtual world seen through the headset.
Along with AR Studio, there were smaller announcements, such as “Frame Studio” for adding elements to pictures in the Facebook app.
Facebook stock today is down 25 cents at $141.17. Snap stock is up 39 cents, or 1.9%, at $20.33.