April 24, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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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