Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is on the second day of its F8 Developer Conference. Yesterday was the keynote by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and it painted a picture of a company that’s doubling down on augmented reality. It also laid out the groundwork for a Facebook that’s planning to take on everything from Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) to consumer electronics giants to smartphones.
F8 and the Rise of AR
For a while there, Facebook was all about virtual reality. It hasn’t given up on the idea of social VR — after all, it spent $2 billion to buy Oculus VR in 2014 — and at F8 the company was showing off the Facebook Spaces VR app.
But it’s doubling down on augmented reality.
New developer tools in the form of the Facebook Camera Effects platform will let developers release AR apps that can run using the existing Facebook mobile app’s camera functionality. This technology will let these apps overlay virtual objects onto the real world view. It’s an approach that Pokemon Go proved could be a smash hit, helping to push it as the next big thing.
However, Facebook has a different vision. At F8, the version of AR it was showing off starts with apps piggybacking on the Facebook app, so the next Pokemon Go might actually be played on Facebook instead of being downloaded from the App Store.
And FB is pursuing a future where advanced eyeglasses — very similar in appearance to Snapchat Spectacles — take the place of screens and clumsy VR headsets. The AR glasses would let the wearer view virtual objects overlaid on top of a real world view, without the need to look at a smartphone screen.
Apple’s Targets: Smartphones, Tablets, TVs
The F8 keynote showed that Facebook’s ambitions for VR go far beyond the smartphone. In fact, if the company has its way, AR glasses could eventually replace not only the smartphone, but also other screened devices like tablets and televisions.
As Zuckerberg said during the keynote: “We don’t need a physical TV. We can buy a $1 app TV and put it on the wall and watch it.”