Facebook's next act: A new spin on reality
There are parts of your life Facebook hasn't yet invaded. But it's coming.
The social networking giant is creating a new type of app designed to overlay images from a computer onto the real world. Hold up your phone, turn on its camera, and it'll be able to add virtual signs or art, or even games where there was none before.
The technology is called augmented reality, and Facebook says it's the next step in changing the way we interact with computers. In the future, we'll use this technology to watch television on blank walls or see furniture laid out in an empty room.
But for now, it'll look like cheesy graphics for our cameras. Just finished a run? You can take a photo with a virtual headband, map and sweat coming off your forehead. Waiting in a doctor's office? Clear off the table and start up a game you see when holding up your phone.
"We're all about extending the physical world online," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday at his company's annual conference for software developers. "Augmented reality is going to help us mix the digital and physical in new ways."
Zuckerberg sees this as the first in a series of steps toward a future in which items like glasses or contact lenses will become windows into a computerized world, where all sorts of information is available without the need to look at a screen or pull out a phone.
Facebook is just one of many companies to profess eagerness to jump into the world of augmented reality. Microsoft has long talked about the technology, embodied in its HoloLens headset. AR was the marquee ingredient that made last year's Pokemon Go such a viral hit. And millions of people are already familiar with AR's benefits thanks to Snapchat filters. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook is hot on AR.