Microsoft has an early lead in the Mixed Reality sphere, but their competition are the most well-funded companies in the world and they never sleep.
At their F8 Developer Conference today Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the company is working on an Augmented Reality headset in addition to their existing Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headsets.
“We focus more on the software side of things, but one thing that seems to be true is that early on in the development of these platforms, the hardware and software are pretty hard to untangle. So it would be very hard to push the VR ecosystem forward and help out there without also working on hardware early on. And I would imagine that the same is going to be true about AR as well.”
Zuckerberg said augmented reality will be a big part of Facebook.
“Think about how many of the things you use [that] don’t actually need to be physical. You want to play a board game? You snap your fingers, and here’s the board game,” he said, motioning to the coffee table. “You want to watch TV?” he gestured to the flat screen up on the wall. “You don’t need a physical hardware TV, you buy a one-dollar app ‘TV’ and put it on the wall.”
While the vision is compelling Facebook may be no nearer than Microsoft in delivering a commercial product to the market.
“I think everyone would basically agree that we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want,” Zuckerberg said. “We may in five years, or seven years, or something like that. But we’re not likely to be able to deliver the experience that we want right now.”
“We can’t build the AR product that we want today, so building VR is the path to getting to those AR glasses,” Zuckerberg explained.
In the meantime, Facebook has decided to create a developer platform for augmented reality camera lenses popular on platforms such as Snapchat and copied by Facebook on Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
The “Camera Effects Platform” will let developers build AR features and lenses for the Facebook in-app camera. Facebook is making the tools available freely, but will initially distribute only the work of 6 partners.
Other developers can however apply and be added to the roster.
“A key part of that journey is making an open platform where any developer can create anything they want,” Zuckerberg added.
Keep an eye on the site to see how this competition for the future of computing between the titans of tech plays out over the next few years.