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Mark Zuckerberg's Augmented Vision

The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, bought the virtual reality (VR) headset technology from Oculus for 2 billion dollars. The (VR) technology was developed by a 22 year old named Palmer Luckey. Unfortunately his technology may take years to come to the public market, therefore Mark Zuckerberg is now pivoting strongly towards the more accessible augmented reality. Why the change of heart and why is the Facebook founder suddenly so passionate about realizing the possibilities of augmented reality? What affects will this have on our future digital lifestyles and communications?

To understand Zuckerberg’s huge interest in augmented reality, you have to first factor in the evolution of digital communications over the past three decades. Digital communications began with text based content. Facebook and many other earlier social networks were actually designed around text communications. With advances in web technologies, this quickly evolved to photo based and currently to video based content.

One of the most popular forms of content development and content sharing in recent times has been thru Facebook videos. This received a massive boost with the unveiling of the Facebook Live feature that now turns every Facebook user into a virtual broadcaster, streaming various aspects of their lives to their friends on social network. Facebook Live is quickly complementing or possibly replacing Facebook text, photo and video updates. It is estimated that by August 2017, Facebook video views will average 64 billion per day and a lot of these will be due to the live feature. That is a 100% growth over the past year. This also presents a transition. Facebook users are moving towards video content forms and this presents a new channel that can be monetized to ramp up the company’s revenues.

Looking to the Future: Facebook’s Next Act

The next phase of Facebook content and user experience strategy is quite ambitious and is based on technologies that are currently under development, as well as considered the next frontiers in modern computing. Virtual reality and augmented reality are the digital communication channels of the future, therefore Facebook wants to be in the front seat in tapping these technologies and making them accessible to their billions of users.

Facebook recognizes the future and in order to state relevant they forecast the future as such: text-photo-video-augmented reality-virtual reality. It is either they join the bandwagon or lose relevance a decade or so from now as users make the shift towards augmented reality and then virtual reality as a medium of digital communication, content development and content sharing.

Facebook recognizes the future and in order to state relevant they forecast the future as such: text-photo-video-augmented reality-virtual reality. It is either they join the bandwagon or lose relevance a decade or so from now as users make the shift towards augmented reality and then virtual reality as a medium of digital communication, content development and content sharing.

The two technologies are quite different, but at the same time closely related. In simple terms, virtual reality immerses you in a computer-generated experience that appears almost real while augmented reality superimposes digital images into the real physical world. A great example of augmented reality, albeit in a more “rudimentary” form, has been the popular Pokémon Go phenomenon of the past year.

The Smartphone Camera as the Augmented Reality Platform

It will be years before technological advances, including the rollout of affordable virtual reality hardware, go mainstream so Facebook is betting on a technology that is already available: smartphone cameras. It is trying to launch the first mainstream augmented reality experience on its platform based on these cameras.

Augmented reality will allow users to apply their simple smartphone cameras in digitally manipulating their physical environment. However, Zuckerberg is betting on more advanced applications of AR that go beyond just adding simple flourishes on images or objects. A good example he gives is augmented reality television where future smartphone users will be able to enjoy a smart TV experience using a $1 augmented reality application. Perhaps, in the future, many of the items we have in our homes such as clocks, televisions or wall art could be replaced with augmented reality?

Facebook’s Augmented Reality Developer’s Platform

To offer users a wholesome augmented reality experience, you will probably need hundreds of thousands of apps being built on an open platform that are easily accessible to users.

While Facebook might be a tech behemoth, it simply doesn’t have the creative pool or manpower to build hundreds of thousands of apps., therefore it has launched an augmented reality (AR) app ecosystem that allows millions of developers from around the world to build all kinds of (AR) apps based on Facebook’s Camera Effects developers’ platform without the need to build their own cameras.

Apple has shown that the best way to capture all facets of a creative experience for a technology or gadget is to crowdsource applications developments to the millions of creators and developers from around the world by the use of an open platform. Facebook is following a similar model in hopes that it will become a leader in the augmented reality experience.

With such a solid foundation of an Augmented Reality (AR) ecosystem, Facebook expects more large companies to bring an immersive (AR) experience to the users on its platform. The social network will be the go-to place for anyone interested in experiencing diverse forms of augmented reality.

The Problem with Mark Zuckerberg’s Augmented Reality Vision

Zuckerberg has a big Augmented Reality, (AR) vision and ambition for the future. Unlike Snap Chat and other augmented reality applications that want AR technologies to enhance our experiences in the future, Facebook wants these technologies to define our future experiences. In Zuckerberg’s own words, a lot of the objects that we currently have in our lives can be replaced with augmented reality in the future.

Vibrant representations of this include a $1 app smart TV or augmented reality wall art. But once you open pathways of creativity through the Camera Effects open platform which developers can easily plug into, there is no limit on how much of our lives will be substituted with augmented reality and this could raise some ethical questions. What do we sacrifice by incorporating special effects in every aspect of our everyday lives? If augmented reality will become our new reality, what does that do to our human personalities?

According to Zuckerberg, prime-time augmented reality that goes beyond the Snapchat-style playful special effects will mix the digital and physical and in the process enhance our physical reality.

There are elements that make perfect sense. For instance, Augmented Reality (AR) will create more information density. One example is an (AR) app that is already in use called, “Augment” that gives a 3D presentation of any product allowing you to see it as it is delivering a spectacular visualization which boosts conversions. There is also the entertainment value of (AR) that many will find quite exciting.

Sometimes we are so excited about the latest technology that we tend to forget the darker side. Imagine an Augmented Reality (AR) future where individuals are constantly augmenting the physical reality around them? Meaning that every hour of the day, you may be hooked on your smartphone immersing yourself in the “novelty” of the (AR) experience. Despite the fact that this will present a new form of entertainment, there is no question that there will be social consequences as well. There will probably be people who are “walking zombies” if the Pokémon Go craze is anything to go by, and may be permanently hooked to the novelties of augmented reality.

Now imagine a world where we have even more exciting augmented experiences than Pokémon Go. Perhaps the famous “dystopian” photo of Mark Zuckerberg with an “evil” smile in a room full of headset wearing “human zombies” could spell our augmented reality future where a few creators have billions of us under their spell, mindlessly hooked on their augmented reality experiences and unable to think for ourselves!

Some would argue that is already happening through existing social networks and games and that overall, the rational human mind will be able to withstand the worst impulses that could be brought out by these new technologies.

Augmented reality is inevitable. It will unlock numerous positive experiences and applications, but like every new technology, we should never close our eyes to the potential negative consequences it might have on society.


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