At this year’s Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference on April 18, Mark Zuckerberg introduced the world’s first mainstream augmented reality platform. The idea behind the platform is to allow people to view and manipulate the world around them using the camera on a smartphone.
While the technology behind the idea is relatively limited at the moment, Zuckerberg already has big plans for how the future of augmented reality will evolve. Currently, users are able to add basic additions to photos or videos they’ve taken with their smartphone cameras, such as adding stickers or digital enhancements.
Michael Abrash at F8 2017The augmented reality platform introduced by Facebook at the conferred allowed people to view and digitally manipulate things within the physical around them using their smartphones. Zuckerberg announced plans to enhance the current technology to such a degree that a user could point a smartphone camera at a bowl of cereal, select a specific AR app, and improve the real-life image to create miniature shark fins circling in the milk.
Facebook’s system will also allow outside developers add augmented reality (AR) objects to the Facebook camera, potentially making it stronger than Snapchat’s system.
Michael Abrash, the chief scientist behind Facebook-owned Oculus, announced during the conference that Facebook plans to create AR glasses designed to be the new way people interact with and consume content.
He said, “I predict that instead of carrying stylish smartphones, we’ll wear smart glasses.” Abrash admits that the technology could be just 5 years away before the kinks in current versions of AR glasses are ironed out far enough for them to go mainstream.
While Zuckerberg’s visions for the future applications of augmented reality sound exciting, the reality remains that previous efforts by other developers in the same area have been unsuccessful.
In 2012, Google released its version of virtual-reality glasses, known as Google Glass. The high-tech gadget was marketed as providing the type of heads-up digital display made famous by the Iron Man character, Tony Stark. At the time it was named one of the “Best Inventions of the Year” by Time Magazine, but it failed to gain traction. By 2015, Google announced it wasn’t proceeding with the project.
Zuckerberg’s plans for the next 10 years also include replacing some household objects with software alternatives. Last week Zuckerberg said in an interview “Instead of a $500 TV sitting in front of us, what’s to keep us from one day having it be a $1 app?”
He also revealed a vision of the future where he sees people wearing AR glasses or even contact lenses that allow users to combine digital and physical objects within the digital world without the need for a smartphone. Instead, the goal is to project all computing needs directly into the eyeballs through the planned AR glasses.
Oculus’ Michael Abrash also unveiled a new social virtual-reality app known as Facebook Spaces. The intent behind the app is to enable people to use many of Facebook’s services within virtual reality.
Users need to be wearing Oculus Rift headsets to access Facebook Space, but digital avatars will represent people while they interact through Facebook Messenger via the app.
During the conference, Regina Dugan, from Facebook’s research lab, Building 8, unveiled Facebook’s ambition to create mind-reading apps. The intention is to allow people to type using their brains, using the eyes to point to letters or images and click with a thought.
Facebook calls the technology a brain-computer speech-to-text interface that is designed to translate a person’s thoughts directly from the brain onto a screen without speech or typing. The research might sound like science-fiction, but a research experiment conducted at Stanford University has already proven that it’s possible to move a computer cursor over a keyboard using only the brain’s signals sent through an implanted electrode.
As technology surrounding virtual reality and augmented reality continues to evolve, it makes this editor at RPRNMag wonder how far big companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft will go to gain the ultimate control over people’s conceptions of reality.
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