Facebook finally makes a virtual reality world
Mark Zuckerberg kicked off Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference on Tuesday. The two-day event, now in its tenth year, was expected to draw more than 4,000 attendees to the San Jose Convention Center in California.
The conference is a chance for Zuckerberg and his executives to wax poetic about all they ways they’re changing the world, while also getting brands excited to sell things on Facebook.
Newish dad Zuckerberg tried out something different on stage: dad jokes. He made cracks about the other F8 trending this week, “The Fate of the Furious,” and joked about his overly long community posts.
“I wrote like six more of these but I understand that some of you are here to see a tech keynote,” said Zuckerberg. He reinforced Facebook’s commitment to building community, before speaking briefly about the Cleveland murder video that was uploaded to Facebook.
He quickly pivoted to the main thrust of his keynote: augmented reality, but without the dorky glasses.
Facebook is using its new camera tools to launch its own augmented reality platform. Instead of putting on goggles, you will hold up your smartphone and watch as it overlays graphics on the world in front of you in real time.
You can add sharks swimming around your morning coffee, or a virtual mug to your table to feel less alone. Add effects to a room, like dripping paintings or rain clouds, and pop-up informational boxes for products or locations. It uses precise location detection, 3D effects and object recognition to make the moving effects work.
The platform is available in a closed beta starting today.
Facebook’s new camera update already uses some of this “augmented reality,” like animated mustaches and glitter beards. Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company was late adding the camera effects to its apps, but said, “I’m confident that now we’re going to push this augment reality platform forward.” Snapchat released similar features Tuesday morning — the latest shot in the war between the two companies.
Last year, Facebook did a silly demo on stage of people hanging out in virtual reality, taking selfies. It was a rough draft for Facebook Spaces, a new virtual reality version of Facebook the company announced today.
Facebook Spaces is an app for the Facebook-owned Oculus VR goggles. Facebook described it as “a magical canvas for shared experiences.”
When you can’t just chill on the couch with your bestie IRL, you can put on some goggles and do it as animated people in a virtual version of your living room. Or in a virtual park, Paris, maybe even outer space if you’re into that.
Rachel Rubin Franklin, the former head of the Sims video game franchise, said it lets you spend time with people and gives “the essence that you’re really there together.”
The app ports in your Facebook profile, so it already knows who your friends are. If you don’t have Oculus (most people don’t) you can use it in a Messenger video call. You can build a custom avatar based on your Facebook profile shot, like a 3D bitmoji.
VR social networks and communities already exist, and they’re experiencing the same etiquette questions as social networks. For instance, one woman was sexually assaulted while playing a video game in VR.
Facebook Spaces launches in beta for Oculus Rift Tuesday.
Facebook also announced a number of new tools just for developers. Since coding can be a lonely undertaking, Facebook is launching Developer Circles. They’re like Facebook Groups for developers, helping connect people living in the same area and offering educational options like special classes from Udacity. There are new analytics tools and more location information to draw from. Developers can now build simplified pages and apps for people who have slow internet connections.
A lot has changed since F8’s first installment. Over the past decade, Facebook has gone from a single website where people play Farmville to a public company that also owns Instagram, Oculus and What’sApp.
At last year’s F8, Zuckerberg took a subtle swipe at then-candidate Trump, saying, “Instead of building walls, we can help build bridges.” In the first few months of Trump’s presidency, Zuckerberg has expressed concern about Trump’s executive orders on immigration. COO Sheryl Sandberg has also criticized Trump on his abortion policies.
On the heels of the campaign, Zuckerberg made it his New Year’s resolution to visit people from every state by the end of 2017 — though he did not specifically mention Trump as a factor. The U.S. election also put fake news and its impact on real-life decisionmaking in the spotlight. Zuckerberg initially said it was “crazy” that Facebook could have impacted the election, though later backtracked on his comments.