Speaking at Facebook's F8 annual developers conference on Tuesday, Zuckerberg signalled the company would be putting increased emphasis on augmented reality (AR), as he launched a platform for developing the technology in closed beta.
Zuckerberg identified augmented-reality glasses or contact lenses as the logical end goal for this AR technology. Once realised, he said, such gadgets would render televisions, smartphones and other current hardware useless.
"Now we all know where we want this to get eventually," he said. "We want glasses, or eventually contact lenses, that look and feel normal but let us overlay all kinds of information and digital objects on top of the real world."
"You want to watch TV? We could put a digital TV on that wall and instead of being a piece of hardware, it's a $1 app, instead of a $500 piece of equipment," he continued.
"Think about how many of the things we have in our lives actually don't need to be physical – they can be digital – and think about how much more affordable and accessible they're going to be when they are."
While glasses might be the future, Zuckerberg said that smartphone cameras had emerged as the first mainstream AR tool, thanks to the popularity of Pokémon GO and the face filters heavily associated with Snapchat.
As such, one of the main announcements of F8 was a new camera-effects platform that will be open to all developers to build on. Zuckerberg said the beta tool would be developed in stages, and would cement the camera as the first mainstream AR platform.
"We're not using primitive tools today because we prefer primitive tools," said Zuckerberg. "We're using primitive tools because we're still early in the journey to create better ones."
"And in order to create better tools we need an open platform where any developer in the world can build for augmented reality without first having to build their own camera and get a lot of people to use it."
AR technology would typically be used to overlay information on the physical environment, add digital objects or enhance existing ones.
The announcement from F8 shows Facebook following the path it laid out in its 10-year roadmap at last year's conference. The roadmap centralises both AR and virtual-reality technologies in Facebook's strategy.
AR is being widely heralded as a game-changing technology. Architect Greg Lynn, who used Microsoft HoloLens to design his contribution to the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, told Dezeen last year that it will revolutionise the architecture and construction industries, while columnist Owen Hopkins warned that it could lead to a dystopian world where everyone is trapped by their own views.
However, Zuckerberg said that as technology freed people from having to spend as much time working, AR would allow them to use those hours creating, exploring and building communities.
"Augmented reality is going to help us mix the physical and digital in all new ways, and that's going to make our physical lives better," he said. "That's why this is such an important trend."
Photograph by Anthony Quintano.
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