Augmented reality is cool, but it’s undeniably a novelty technology. That’s because building AR apps and products is really bloody hard. You need a weighty design and development team, and mountains of money.
But perhaps not for much longer. That’s because today, at the F8 Conference in San Jose, Facebook announced the launch of AR Studio. It’s hard to understate how exciting this is. It’s essentially a highly sophisticated, commoditized platform that developers can use in order to incorporate augmented reality into their stuff.
Deb Liu, VP of Platform and Marketplace, announced the platform onstage at the McEnery Convention Center. While she didn’t dive into how it would work in practice, she provided real-world demonstrations that were nothing short of stunning.
AR Studio supports real-time face tracking, which allows the developer to overlay Snapchat style visual effects. Liu demonstrated this technology with great aplomb on a Mass Effect: Andromeda app, where her face was overlaid with a virtual helmet, not unlike the ones seen in the game.
The platform also allows the developer to integrate real-time data into the space. So, if you’re using the Mass Effect: Andromeda app, you’ll be able to see leaderboards floating about in the world.
But most exciting of all, it supports 3D rendering, allowing the developer to place sophisticated virtual items into the real world. The example shown was artifacts and spaceships from the Mass Effect game. This is very similar to what we’ve seen with Hololens. It impressed me then, and it impresses me now.
Facebook’s ambitions for AR Studio aren’t merely confined to the world of gaming. One example was an app for the English soccer team Manchester United, where a pub-like environment was suddenly festooned with real-time scores, and celebratory graphics when the Red Devils scored.
AR studio also supports live video. One example showed a Streamer’s channel decorated with gifs from Giphy in response to real-time inputs from users.
All the features demonstrated at F8 are available from today. More information can be found here. Although Liu was eager to point out that it was the “first step in a long term journey, and we’re just getting started.”
Perhaps. But to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, AR Studio is one small step for augmented reality, and one giant leap for developers. Developers who, perhaps for the first time, have a mature, mainstream, and sophisticated platform to integrate AR into their work.
Developers who might have given AR a miss in the past, but will be attracted to it by the presence of something that’s plug-and-play.