Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Sets Sights on Augmented Reality

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Mark Zuckerberg

The social network unveiled its new camera platform during its annual developers conference on Tuesday.

If Facebook's first act was becoming a large social media platform for sharing your reality — posting messages, photos and videos — then its second act will be about augmenting that reality. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that vision for the company Tuesday during its annual developers conference, known as F8. During his 30-minute speech, which kicked off two days of presentations and workshops, Zuckerberg unveiled a new camera-based platform that will allow people to use their mobile phone to change the world in front of them. 

The message was clear: Facebook sees augmented reality as the future of computing technology. "We're going to make the camera the first mainstream augmented reality platform," said Zuckerberg. 

It's still early for AR technology, which is used to make Poke Balls appear on people's cells phones out of thin air in the Pokemon Go game, but there are many uses behind the facemask filters that Snapchat popularized. Zuckerberg outlined practical uses, like leaving virtual messages on the fridge each morning and new entertainment cases like gaming. 

"It's going to take a while for this to develop," Zuckerberg acknowledged, adding that Facebook's camera-based platform is launching first in closed beta before becoming publicly available to all developers. But he added, "Over time, I think this is going to be a really important technology that changes how we use our phones and eventually all of technology." 

Not long ago, Zuckerberg was describing a similar future for virtual reality as he outlined why the company had spent $3 billion to acquire VR headset maker Oculus. AR is largely seen as a part of the larger VR space, but it is easier to get into the hands of consumers because nearly every one of Facebook's users has access to a mobile phone camera. As of December, Facebook had 1.74 billion monthly active users on mobile alone. 

Facebook's news dropped the same morning that rival Snapchat unveiled new AR-based technology of its own. Called "world lenses," these filters allow Snapchat users to add 3D images to the photos and videos they take through the app. Snapchat's world lenses are very similar to the types of AR experiences that Zuckerberg described during his F8 speech. 

Zuckerberg was lively onstage during the talk, opening with a joking reference to the fact that Facebook's conference was overshadowed by another F8, the weekend premiere of action film Fate of the Furious

He also laid out the future of Facebook, explaining that it is "an important time to work on building a community." 

Early on in his talk, Zuckerberg addressed the video posted to Facebook on Sunday that showed the murder of Cleveland retiree Robert Godwin Sr. "We have a lot more to do here," he said. "We're reminded of it this week with the tragedy in Cleveland. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Goodwin Sr. We will keep doing what we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening."

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