Facebook is doubling down on augmented reality (AR): The company used its F8 developer conference in San Jose Tuesday to announce a number of initiatives designed to expand the use of AR across its family of apps. This includes support for third-party AR filters in Messenger, Instagram and Facebook Lite, as well as tools to help developers with the creation of AR assets and experiences.
One of the first Facebook apps to benefit from the company’s work in AR is Messenger. Facebook announced Tuesday that it is bringing AR to the Messenger Platform, whiich is essentially the developer program that allows brands and others to build their own chat bots, as well as add payments and other features.
As part of a closed beta, Facebook is allowing a handful of brands to bring special AR filters to Messenger. Users who engage with Sephora, KIA, Nike or ASUS on Messenger will have the option to access AR through a special button, which opens up their phone camera, and offers a number of branded AR overlays. Sephora for example will allow users to try on some make-up looks, and then share photos or videos with their Facebook friends.
Instagram is also set to receive an AR update, with Facebook extending its camera effects developer tools to the photo sharing service. This will allow developers to build AR effects, like face filters and world lenses, for their followers on the service. Some of the launch partners for the closed beta test of AR on Instagram include Kylie Jenner, NBA, Jiffpom, Liza Koshy, Baby Ariel, Ariana Grande, Vogue and BuzzFeed.
And finally, AR is also coming to Facebook Lite, the app that Facebook launched close to 3 years ago for low-end Android phones. Facebook committed on Tuesday to bring AR experiences from third-party developers to the app’s entire user base, but didn’t give any firm date for the update.
Developers won’t just be able to bring their AR filters to additional audiences, they’re also getting some help in making them. Facebook announced Tuesday that it is updating its AR creation software AR Studio. Creators can now more easily import existing 3D assets into their AR experiences, and Facebook Pages that publish AR apps will soon get to track their use with analytics.
Facebook also upped the ante on some of the underlying technology powering AR on its apps. The company is adding advanced target tracking, which includes hand tracking as well as high-fidelity body tracking, which should make for a lot more precise filters.
Facebook’s camera will also get better at recognizing objects, which will allow developers for instance to add virtual steam whenever there is a real-life coffee cup in the picture. And facebook AR is getting background segmentation, aka a green screen effect, which will allow for filters that transport people into different environments.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first teased the company’s AR ambitions during his keynote speech at F8 2017, where he confessed that he had originally only thought of the technology in the context of AR glasses, which may be several years away from becoming a mass consumer product. However, Zuckerberg and Facebook ultimately changed course to turn smart phones and their cameras into AR platforms — something that Zuckerberg had called “phase one” back in 2017.