So this week Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be the lead in augmented reality. Now, we’ve talked about AR in class quite a bit as well as Facebook, but what can the implications of the former be on the latter? Because Facebook has sort of taken a follower position on most of its updates with regards to competitors like Twitter and now Snapchat, Zuckerberg is determined for this to be the space where Facebook “out-innovates.” At the F8 developer’s conference held earlier last week, several opportunities were announced. On the most simple level, Facebook announced that it would allow developers to begin making AR apps using the camera in the Facebook app. Similarly, it will use precise location and object recognition to detect an item and allow for overlay effects on what users see.
What does this really mean? Well for one thing more space for advertising (yes, I know we’re working on the blocking of those pesky things and it sounds counterintuitive that Facebook would want more space to advertise). However, last year CFO David Wehner warned of a “meaningful” slow down of ad revenue because of the saturation in ad load, in other words the ratio of ads to personal posts. I know that I tend to look at Facebook less because of the tumultuous amounts of ads that I scroll through instead of my own friends’ posts, but wouldn’t you be less annoyed of ads if they came in the shape of 3-D objects that appear as you scroll down? I know that I would be (inner nerd thinks its super cool and wants it to become mainstream so I support Zuckerberg 100 percent, bring on the AR!)
How It’ll Work
The precision technology that maps out images in 3-D can be combined with Facebook’s object recognition technology that has the ability to process images in real time, as well as image and location tracking to provide users with very targeted artificial intelligence services, relevant ads, and suggested content. Facebook wouldn’t build all the software itself, however, it calls for programmers to help build these augmented reality apps by working with the precision technology tools and what it calls its Camera Effects Platform. This works to increase engagement and the value that the platform provides, which is something we touched upon in class: the trust and appeal of Facebook comes from the interactions made between you and your fellow community, so engagement is key. This has the potential to be the problem solver for advertising, creating a space to ‘unload’ the ad saturation issue in the near-term. Zuckerberg said that he envisioned a world in which people could eventually point their smartphone camera at a bowl of cereal and have an app create tiny sharks swimming in the milk or friends leaving virtual notes to one another at any location. Think about this for a second, it creates for a tremendous amount of potential; those virtual notes can be sponsored ads, the tiny sharks can spit out a fish skeleton with a brand logo on it (creepy but possible). In a world where we can overlay things, it is less likely for ads to get in the way.
How Far Can It Go
According to Zuckerberg there is potential to rid of things that don’t actually need to be physical. For example, why purchase a $500 TV when it can be a $1 app? I think this is a little extreme seeing that I don’t think Facebook has the resources to create software strong enough to enable such replacements as well as the technology not being advanced enough. Facebook has been slightly ambitious in the past with the $2 billion purchase of Oculus that currently has difficulty finding traction. Facebook also has some other issues surrounding the company that has the potential to distract moving forward with this new vision, one of them being that the company is under scrutiny for its position as an arbiter of mass media and is facing questions of how they should play a role in policing content across its platform. This would make it slightly more difficult for the development of augmented reality because if Facebook is to take a serious role in policing in the future, the censure and lack of ability to be creative that will come with utilizing augmented reality might be a turn off to users since it works in real time.
What Happens If It Is Successful
If Facebook does achieve its goal of being front-runners in the augmented reality sector, it could hold a position similar to Apple, relying on the apps within to have continual usage by the users. Facebook aims at having apps that entice users to visit the site daily, if not hourly. If they execute this the opportunity for advertising increases, as will ad revenues presumably. Also with Zuckerberg having reworked the suite of consumer apps Facebook owns (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) to having interfaces that all revolve around the camera, it may stem competition for our fellow camera company, Snap Inc. Only time will tell if the world will be seen through a deeper Facebook lens than it already is.