Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would give some hand-selected outside developers permission to build augmented reality features for Facebook’s in-app camera.
HBO built a face mask so “Game of Thrones” fans could turn themselves into the Night King. “Star Wars” built one, too, so users could look like bad guy Kylo Ren.
Now the company is opening the floodgates to everyone with a mask idea — or an idea for other AR features we haven’t even heard of yet.
Starting Tuesday, any outside developer can build AR features for Facebook’s in-app camera, called the Camera Effects Platform. That could mean funky face filters or the ability to project things onto the real world as seen through your camera, like adding floating butterflies to your living room.
For most users, opening these AR features to all developers won’t create a noticeable change right away. But it should result in more funky face filters and AR projections coming down the road — and hopefully, stuff that’s a lot cooler and more interesting than that, too.
Facebook is still trying to bring its vision for AR into the mainstream. CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks that augmented reality is going to be a major platform someday, and the company is even building physical AR glasses that will one day serve as a more permanent camera through which people will see the world.
But AR is still nascent, and Facebook is one of many companies trying to push the technology into the hands of consumers. Apple is also offering AR software tools for developers, and Apple’s benefit is that it owns the actual hardware (the iPhone) where users can find those features. Google is trying something similar with Android. Snapchat, too, wants to push augmented reality features, and should get credit for popularizing the goofy face masks people seem to love.
Facebook’s pitch to developers is the same as Facebook’s pitch to advertisers: We have a ton of users. If you build on Facebook, you can theoretically reach billions. And unlike other companies that offer AR platforms, building on Facebook means you can reach users regardless of what device they’re using — iPhone or Android.
We’ll see over time if that pitch resonates, and whether or not people care about funky AR features in their Facebook camera. Facebook is betting they do — and so are Google, Apple and Snapchat — which means AR is probably here to stay, whether you like it or not.
Access to Facebook’s AR platform, called AR Studios, begins rolling out on Tuesday, and will take a couple of days before it’s live to everyone, according to a company blog post.