Mark Zuckerberg recently took to the stage at F8, the annual Facebook Developer Conference, and shared Facebook’s updated roadmap with the world—and their next stop is augmented reality. Post-mortem opinions and reactions came fast and furious, but we’ve been mulling it over at Trumpet, thinking about how this proposed evolution reflects Facebook’s previous growth spurts.
Remember when we’d all gotten used to checking out profile pages on Facebook, and then they introduced a news feed? For some, it was difficult to comprehend and accept what was happening. (My parents still don’t get it.) But over time, the news feed became the central feature of Facebook, and today is the primary thing we see while using the platform. (Unless we’re social stalking someone. No judgement.)
Something else happened with our adoption of the news feed: in a way, it became became its own sort of introduction to augmented reality, as the order and prioritization of posts became the jurisdiction of a Facebook algorithm, and sponsored posts (ads, really) were filtered in.
If we simplify this progression as a model, Facebook first established value (the ability to keep up with your friends), then enhanced the stickiness of that value by prioritizing more engaging posts, and finally added in a palatable number of ads to generate revenue. To this day, users can’t control the pace at which Facebook advertising is fed to us, but as long as the platform stays free, no one really seems to care.
So, looking at the evolution of the newsfeed and fast forwarding to today, we can assume that their actual augmented reality initiative might follow the same model. Different feature sets (menu recommendations, directions, etc.) will be released, then Facebook will establish value for each of those feature sets, and finally they’ll bring in the ads, which we won’t be able to control.
With a useable model in place, what boundaries remain for Facebook AR? It's not hardware or code—it’s us, and our understandable aversion to wearable technology. Google Glass and Bluetooth headsets are hallmarks of douchebaggery and prompts for social shaming. Apple Watch made some headway, but is generally considered to be a flop. Unless someone can make wearable tech more digestible, Facebook AR will merely be people using their phones as a sort of virtual magnifying glass. Time will tell if what we’re peering at will be any more enriching or entertaining than our current news feed scroll.