Facebook F8 Conference

Top Announcements from Facebook F8 Conference 2017

The Facebook Developer Conference (Facebook F8), held this past week in San Jose, promised camera tricks, new AR capabilities, lots of bots, and much more. Two announcements in particular caught our attention, one on the Camera Effects Platform and the other on Facebook Spaces. While both announcements are exciting to us as consumers, both also impact us as developers who strive to build great products using the latest and best tech.

Camera Effects Platform

Facebook’s presenters put a lot of emphasis during F8 on their new Camera Effects Platform, a suite of tools for creating effects for the Facebook camera. These desktop tools – currently still in beta and only available to a limited audience of developers – come in two flavors: one for creating fixed frames or overlays, and one for creating dynamic reactive animations in Augmented Reality (AR).

The first, and simplest, tool is the Frames Studio. It allows users to upload png image files from any source and create an image that can be laid over photos. For example, a user could add an event logo, place/time description, or a bit of design flair.

But the more exciting, and challenging, of the tools is the AR Studio. This tool allows the user to import or create 3D “masks” and textures that can be combined with face tracking to impose objects in real time over a user’s face, for example glasses, a mustache, or a hat – whatever you can imagine.

F8 Camera Effects

This same tool can “stick” a virtual object in space so that as the camera moves, the object moves in and out of frame, as though it were real, allowing designers to place the camera’s subject in a sort of cartoon world. All this is done in real time and can be shared live.

In addition, a powerful new scripting tool allows developers to incorporate interactive responses to the subject’s movements and gestures. For example a “thought balloon” could hover over the user’s head, changing its contents between different animated gifs as the user shakes his head.

F8 Camera Effects

The scripts also allow real-time incorporation of external data, so a runner could real-time share a trace and details of her current run while simultaneously giving herself a virtual Nike-branded headband and virtual beads of sweat.

F8 Camera Effects

While these features are still in development, they provide a glimpse of the heavily interactive and graphics augmented possibilities that Facebook is planning to place in the hands of its users.

Facebook Spaces

While Camera Effects enhances the real you with graphics, Facebook Spaces takes the virtual you wherever you want to go. This virtual reality (VR) app allows you to hang out with friends inside a headset in any environment you can imagine. The app, released this week as a beta, uses WebVR to allow people to share VR experiences as simply as sharing a web link or by logging in to the same VR app on different devices. Until now, VR has been a closed system and difficult to share without being in the same room on the same specialized equipment. The new opportunity to share the VR experience with faraway friends had the audience at F8 buzzing.

The technical details behind the WebVR API are what makes us buzz at InspiringApps. The new Facebook React VR framework is designed to work with WebVR on web, mobile, and VR devices. Using the popular React code style, the inputs map automatically to device-specific events such as “tap,” “gaze,” or “click.” The WebVR API is an open standard built on top of web technology including JavaScript, CSS Flex, and browser debugging tools. The JavaScript language and open standard could make the barrier to VR development relatively low.

As developers, we are thrilled to see that large VR stakeholders are leveraging JavaScript’s build speed and ergonomics because it’s a language we use regularly and trust to get the job done. Systems running VR will likely compile down to more traditional languages for a long time. However, if JavaScript can be the interface through libraries like React VR, then not only can more developers make VR apps, but also the developer experience will be much more productive. We predict an increase in the number of VR products and apps on the market due to these new developments.

The F8 conference unveiled many other innovations from Facebook, and we think this recap from Wired provides a great summary of F8 for those who want more details. If the announcements have inspired you with some new ideas, we’d love to help you process how to bring them to life. Contact us!

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