Augmented reality (AR) is undeniably still in its infancy as a tool. And yet, the technology has already opened up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities for consumers, business, health professionals and universities.
To understand the tool’s progression and accessibility, Facebook head of tech, entertainment and connectivity Jason Juma-Ross sat down with experts in the field of AR at Advertising Week to discuss how AR is maturing, rewriting the way we tell stories and shaking up human interaction.
Speaking with Facebook partner engineer manager of platforms Emmanuel Lusinchi, Speed 3D Inc art director Ray Chung, Rapid director of technology Dan White and Shadow Factory partner Devin Ehrig, Juma-Ross and the panelists explained the radical developments taking place at Facebook’s AR Studio, the production of AR and the importance of distribution.
First up, Lusinchi took to the stage to discuss AR Studio, explaining how the how the tool is both extremely intricate and well developed, and yet, able to be used incredibly easily by the 1.5 billion Facebook users who have access to the Facebook Camera, where AR effects are consumed.
Using a real-time demonstration, Lusinchi showed the audience how easily a user can plug demands into AR Studio to create a personalised AR filter. “Facebook is attempting to put the tool in the hands of as many creatives as possible and as many users as possible,” Lusinchi said. In doing so, the Facebook team can give users more freedom to express themselves with AR Studio.
He added, “There’s a lot of room for innovation, what we have really done with all this innovation is take tech aspect out of it and, instead, we’re getting users to find their own creativity using the tools”. Speaking about cameras and how they are developing alongside the tools, Lusinshi said, “The camera is getting intelligent enough to understand what it is seeing, machine learning is great!”
Chung, Ehrig and White then jumped on stage to speak about their own AR projects and applaud the way Facebook has helped AR development as a whole. Talking about Facebook, Chung said, “Facebook brought me technology which has allowed me to be able to see how things look and hear in an unreal way”. Adding to this, Ehrig said Facebook has been crucial for introducing new technology.
For White, the brilliance of AR Studio is its ability to “Create a physical surface that’s grounded in reality, that allows you to visualise experiences. It’s taking AR beyond being simply ‘look at this entertaining thing’ to a tool of real value”.
For the panellists, one of the biggest barriers to overcome in AR is distribution, and getting the public to understand the simplicity of the tool. Speaking on the challenge, Lusinchi said, “There are some great independent apps and tools to bring AR experiences into people’s lives, but the challenge is getting people to download a new app.”
He added, “This is why having these experiences in an app like Facebook, that has such broad reach already, is a great way of bringing the experience to as many people as possible”.
For Ehrig, the integration of AR into our everyday lives will happen much like that of the iPad. “It’ll be like before and after you had an iPad. All of sudden you have a device that’s so easy it changes the way you’re enjoying your time, so no one will be asking ‘why do we need this’. I think this is the year people will stop asking its point”.
Chung added to this, “What we’re doing is trying to push users to realise they can make transformations with AR within their lives, as opposed to just using it to create a funny face. In the future, if I want to know something, if I want to pay my bills, if I want to chat with someone, we will use AR, it’s time to stop thinking of it just as a way to change our faces.
“In the next year everyone will think of AR as part of the way they use media daily – when I think of 12 months from now, people will not still be surprised by AR as a tool, but instead surprised by the incredible creative thinking happening within AR.”
Talking about Facebook’s own progression in the field, Juma-Ross said, “The AR space is the next step in the evolution of communication that has been advancing since writing. It’s continuing that development from text, to images, through video and now AR”.
Speaking of Facebook’s own advances, Juma-Ross said, “The newspapers in Harry Potter were the original inspiration behind how some of the engineering teams saw video auto-playing in News Feed”.
“This began to evolve into Live and 360 Capture, for us another step in that progression involves AR,” said Juma-Ross. “Right from the early days of experimenting with AR and VR we’ve seen it create enormous empathy. A VR film centering on a Syrian refugee camp was a ground-breaking project that made consumers realise you could experience other people’s reality, and as a result UNICEF donations went up significantly.”
Looking ahead, Juma-Ross is excited about what’s to come. “I think that right now we’ve been in the novelty stage, where we’ve seen the first application of this technology. Over the next 12 to 24 months we’ll see significant adoption by brands as they figure out how AR will be used,” he said. Specifically, Juma-Ross is excited about one upcoming period. “Christmas is such a great time for brands to be thinking about how they can bring a little magic into their customers’ lives with AR.”