Facebook bets on AR & VR tech for future growth

The company has launched tools for new Snapchat-style filters

Facebook has unveiled its plans for using virtual and augmented reality technologies to grow its platform, including new Snapchat-style camera features.

Speaking at the company's F8 developer conference yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed new technologies designed to take advantage of the boom in AR tech. These are primarily centered around the Facebook Camera, with examples like interactive filters and animated masks.

The company's new Camera Effect Platform includes two products; an online editor for image frames and AR Studio for more in-depth AR creations, which is currently in closed beta. Zuckerberg showed off several examples to demonstrate the technology, including AR games, art and social messages.

"Over time, I do think that this is going to be a really important technology that changes how we use our phones, and eventually all of technology," he said during his keynote. However, he warned the technology would take a while to reach it's full maturity, saying "it'll take a while for this to develop. Experiences are not going to change dramatically overnight".

Augmented reality technology, which overlays digital images onto the real world, has been popularised primarily by Snapchat, which features a variety of animated effects. It's been adopted with particular interest by marketers and advertisers, who are looking to take advantage of its high usage within the coveted 'millennial' demographic.

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The company also took the wraps off a new social VR environment, called Facebook Spaces. The shared virtual experience allows you to hang out with digital avatars of your friends, relive memories on Facebook and watch 360-degree videos together. It also supports Facebook Messenger, meaning your friends can get involved even if they don't have VR headsets.

The new products are part of Facebook's effort to further establish social VR and AR as a key part of its platform, which it hopes will prompt new growth and continued engagement within its userbase.

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