Facebook Connect 7 Highlights: AR Focused

Subscribe To Download This Insight

4Q 2020 | IN-5957

At this year’s Facebook Connect annual conference, the company made several announcements regarding its latest plans and progress in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) strategy. The company announced the release of its next-generation VR device, the Oculus Quest 2, and some upcoming VR games (see the ABI Insight “NAB 2019, AV1, and the Future of Video Codecs” (IN-5492)). Regarding its AR division, Facebook not only announced upcoming updates for the Spark AR content creator tool—usable for both Messenger and Portal products—but also unveiled its plans for a research tool for AR glasses called Project Aria as well as upcoming AR Ray-Ban branded smartglasses that will be released in 2021.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.

 

Announcements in Both AR and VR, with Unexpected Focus in AR with Reality Labs and Project Aria

NEWS


At this year’s Facebook Connect annual conference, the company made several announcements regarding its latest plans and progress in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) strategy. The company announced the release of its next-generation VR device, the Oculus Quest 2, and some upcoming VR games (see the ABI Insight “NAB 2019, AV1, and the Future of Video Codecs” (IN-5492)). Regarding its AR division, Facebook not only announced upcoming updates for the Spark AR content creator tool—usable for both Messenger and Portal products—but also unveiled its plans for a research tool for AR glasses called Project Aria as well as upcoming AR Ray-Ban branded smartglasses that will be released in 2021.

Facebook's AR Journey So Far

IMPACT


The social media company is already one of the leading players in the AR/VR market due to the success of Oculus VR products both at consumer and enterprise levels, and the massive usage of AR effects/filters across social media apps (Instagram and Facebook). At Facebook Connect 7, the company announced that the published AR effects have reached more than 1.2 million users so far, almost a year after Spark AR was released, which is used both by consumers and businesses.

AR effects have been proven as a powerful storytelling/marketing tool that assists brands in increasing engagement with their customers and empowers individuals to enrich/differentiate the way that they communicate and interact with the real world. In addition, educational institutions, museums, and press are experimenting with digital tools and AR effects to assist users in gaining a better understanding of concepts and create novel and interactive experiences. At the current stage of the market, AR effects and filters are among the most well-known and widely used AR content in the consumer market, but the actual value to the user is still limited. AR smartglasses promise to solve this and deeply integrate into a user’s daily life, if Facebook’s vision becomes reality. Facebook announced its first-generation smartglasses device but did not unveil device capabilities or features.

Within the Facebook Reality Labs group, employees will test the Project Aria wearable in the real world to examine head and eye tracking capabilities, suitable design, and data collection/privacy issues. It is anticipated that first-generation AR smartglass will be an assistive reality device that will empower users with daily tasks such as AR navigation, hands-free access to smartphone apps, and capturing photos and videos. More complex visualizations, such as holograms overlaid in the real world, promise to be a killer app for content platforms like Facebook, unlocking new opportunities in video-based communication, social media, gaming, and more. However, this is a long-term play for ubiquitous consumer access to this type of application, requiring a combination of technological maturity, fast connectivity, lower prices, and proof of value to consumers. Nevertheless, that is the direction of the market looking forward, and so Facebook’s initial efforts, however they reach the market, will be one of the earliest promising efforts for the consumer AR space.

How Facebook's AR Smartglasses Can Stand Out from the Competition

RECOMMENDATIONS


Facebook has already played an important role in preparing and educating consumers about AR content by enabling them to explore and use in practice AR effects or play AR games in real time on mobile devices. Now, Facebook is preparing to dive deeper into the consumer AR market ecosystem both in terms of hardware and software. One of the main questions for Facebook is how to differentiate from its competitors including Google and Apple, which are active in AR and expected to launch AR consumer devices soon.

  • Design and Material Quality: The partnership with Ray-Ban will assist Facebook in creating a stylish design that is similar to ordinary glasses, which will address one of the current challenges in the AR consumer market, user acceptance and appeal. However, both Apple and Google (after its North acquisition) will have similar goals. Materials can be a differentiator that will affect both the quality and the price of the product.
  • Content: It is anticipated that first-generation AR smartglasses will be paired with smartphones, leveraging mobile apps such as navigation/maps, messages/calls, streaming content, hands-free video capturing, and gaming. The development of an app store similar to Oculus with some exclusive apps/partnerships has the potential to provide an advantage to Facebook devices and compete with Google and Apple, which will rely on its own content houses (Apple Arcade and Apple TV+). In the early stages of consumer AR smartglasses, content options will be a driving factor in adoption and overall success.
  • Privacy and security will be a vital issue for all AR smartglasses manufacturers. Even if Facebook does eventually develop its own operating system, that does not guarantee user trust. User data is the product for the major tech players, and Facebook has already outlined the value of that collection with Project Aria. It will be a careful balance to maintain users and gather necessary data to enable experiences.
  • Technical Capabilities/Features: Battery life, optics, displays, field of view, user interface, and extra accessories can be differentiation points across AR consumer smartglasses. It is a nascent market, and so these elements create a very important first impression.
  • The object tracking/environmental understanding capabilities of each device is another important factor that determines the quality and performance of AR applications. Facebook has already acquired startups that specialize in spatial mapping.
  • Price is always a critical component in demand and overall success. Based just on Oculus, Facebook has been successful in providing affordable and competitive products.
  • Timing: Last but not least, time of launch will play an important role in purchase rates. Apple is expected to launch an AR device in the next couple years, likely after Facebook and possibly after Google. First to market helps with exposure and initial adoption, but first in market and best in market are very different things.

The next couple years will prove incredibly interesting for the AR market as a whole. While the target market for Facebook and its ultimate competition will be the consumer space, there is high demand for low-cost, easy-to-use smartglasses products in the enterprise domain. Efforts in one market tend to cross over to the other, hardware included. The investment and resources spent today on AR focuses on mobile devices, but will often carry over to head-worn efforts naturally, especially with devices favoring tethered form factors. Facebook has made solid moves in AR thus far, and is set to be the first tech giant to hit the consumer smartglasses market, but it won’t be the only competitor for long.

 

Services