Facebook is trying to close the augmented reality gap with Snapchat with the help of an army of third-party developers. Today, eight months after debuting its Augmented Reality Camera Effects platform and AR Studio tool at F8, Facebook is allowing all developers to start buidling AR experiences for its Facebook Camera. That includes “World Effects” — Facebook’s copy of Snapchat’s World Lenses — that augment your environment with 3D objects rather than just your selfies.
AR Studio becomes available to all developers today, and World Effects creation will open up there in the next few days for use on Facebook and Messenger. For exampl,e on Messenger you’ll be able to add a 3D heart floating above someone’s head, add an arrow to point to something in a panorama, or add a celebrating robot that plays music to jazz up a drab video.
“We want artists, developers, brands and more creators to be able to build and share amazing AR experiences” writes Facebook director Ficus Kirkpatrick. “By opening AR Studio to all creators, we’re taking steps towards making AR more a part of everyday life.”
Facebook’s opportunity here it take advantage of Snapchat’s anti-developer attitude. Snapchat has yet to fully embrace third-party AR content beyond some basic image frame submissions and work with a few fine artists like Jeff Koons. Meanwhile, Facebook has been operating a developer platform for over a decade, and has fostered a huge community of coders looking to get their content in front of Facebook’s massive 2 billion user audience.
Since launching the Camera Effects platform, Facebook has worked with over 2000 brands, publishers, and artists to make AR experiences. This could lay the groundwork for Sponsored World Effects, which might let businesses pay to offer branded AR toys inside of Facebook.
“We’ve been continuously advancing the capabilities of the platform, with improved face tracking, new graphics capabilities, better scripting, and now world effects. This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to see how creators bring art to life through AR Studio.”
Users can open the Facebook or Messenger Camera, scroll through the World Effects, and tap to add one of to what they’re seeing. Some other launch experiences include a unicorn you can play with, or the ability to add floating 3D word bubbles like “love,” “bae,” “heart” and “miss you.”
The real world is too vast for a single company to spice up with augmented reality. But by crowdsourcing development, Facebook could eventually offer AR experiences connected to any location, real-world object, holiday, or activity. That breadth of offering will be key to becoming the default way people explore the AR world. Whichever app offers the most and best experiences will be the one people wave in the air to see what’s hidden out of view.