When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg began talking at F8, I had high hopes. I was hoping that he would be tackling Augmented Reality in a totally unprecedented way but I immediately realized that the giant company would be taking the easy approach to AR. We’ll get into the reason why it’s a lazy approach, but if you really needed an initial glimpse into how this is not the news we were hoping for, you need look no further than the fact that he made it seem like no one had ever thought of using the camera for AR applications as a default. That’s just not the case. But let’s dive into the news and see how it all pans out for you, your social experience and what, if any, impact it’ll have on your next workout.
Zuck purported that the new standard for AR would be the camera and I honestly felt some of my brain cells die from screaming various sarcastic quips to the enormously obvious–but it’s great that he found the bangwagon to jump onto I guess and we do have to appreciate an industry giant taking steps in this field. Let’s face it: With the exception of Pokemon Go, most other efforts in this space were relatively unpopular. By providing a standard for others to go off of and a platform to use to develop it on, we will now see a larger amount of people developing for that platform. This is all good news.
This is something that the AR industry has needed in order to get kicked off of the ground so that it can run in full competition with VR. I believe that the new fight on the tech horizon will be over which experience is better: VR v. AR. Think of it as a modern day Intel v. AMD or Mac v. PC.
Glasses versus Software
We already got our first reaction to AR glasses that incorporate computer technology into the reality of our environments. When Google glasses came out, the technologically inclined absolutely loved it but the irrational fear for privacy caused an immediate backlash and the tech never really became what it was hoped to be.
Luckily, the normalizing of VR technology and the demand of a head mounted display has caused such fears to subside in the wake of curiosity. Perhaps the invention of a new pair of glasses will be well received in the future, much like we saw with Instagram glasses. Time will tell.
Either way, Mark is taking the lazy way and I mean that on several fronts. First of all, camera AR has already been an idea and it has worked really well. Second, object identification is a software technology that just needs to be improved instead of invented. Thirdly, I did not see a single piece of software beyond an sdk to handle AR that was completely new. Instead, most of them had already been created or were being created and just needed further improvements. Come on: Updates are not exciting and everybody knows it.
Facebook Just Released a Revolutionary Game Making Tool… and Didn’t Know It
A lot of people just absorbed the view that Facebook provided and it was a really great view, so I can’t really blame them if they missed one of the biggest additions to gaming and movies… ever. This was hidden inside of the cool object detection and was only given a few lines of credit, but for those that don’t understand I suppose I should explain myself.
Rigging is a classic term in the gaming and animation industry, but it is hardly known outside of it. The way we currently animate people in both games and animation is via rigging, but the technique is different for each industry. With games, the rigging occurs only inside of the virtual space and rare takes place outside of it unless we’re talking about a massive AAA game. This involves creating a skeleton of a person inside of the, normally, single piece texture we call a 3D model.
When animating characters inside of a 3D movie, we put on this big, awkward leotard that is colored green and covered in motion tracked sensors. Depending on the budget of the movie, these sensors may be just a handful or it could seem like a sea of sensors. Why? Because we can’t simply point a camera at a human and map out exactly where they are in comparison to our 3D model. That is, until Facebook released news on its object detection methods.
I noticed it right off the bat, but I am, honestly, very surprised that many people didn’t exclaim their shock at that moment. Additionally, the lack of the coverage for such a feature in the technology because it seriously modifies how we map humans/creatures in an environment.
Why Does This Matter?
Developers won’t have to have such a large budget and movies can be made even faster. Additionally, this also has some more potential depending on how well refined it becomes. Most of the time, doctors determine spinal issues based on how a person bends and walks. Yes, they do use MRI’s and other scanning methods to confirm their theories, but an uneven arch in the back and an awkward walk back and forth can let them know where they may need to poke around in order to find the source of the problem.
The ability to provide rigging based on a camera instead of the convoluted methods that we use now means that it will take far less time to make most of the content that sells really well nowadays. Additionally, rigging makes up so much of video games that it makes up 1/4 of all of a game’s development cycle. This means that video games will take 1/4 of the time to make and this could mean that games will become cheaper.
Finally: AR Standardization and an Sdk To Boot
A software development kit is a collection of instructions, algorithms, and variables that allow for the creation of a certain type of software. Android has an sdk, Apple has an sdk, and nearly any OS has an sdk attached to it. In order to make software for these OSs you need an sdk for that OS. Needless to say, providing the first sdk specifically for AR development means that other massive libraries will likely try to either create their own or incorporate Facebook’s sdk.
Setting a standard in an industry is very important because unless it is challenged very quickly afterwards, much like Blu Ray and Microsoft’s HD, the standard tends to stick. For VR, this standardization was the Oculus and we already saw the fallout result and keep seeing it. For AR, the standard has yet to have happened and this was a large part of why AR has been left alone while VR grows explosively.
AR is a truly revolutionary interactive style that will change how we exercise on a daily basis. Instead of just trying to run with your arms, you can just overlay the world with gameplay and gain exercise by running around to avoid whatever enemy may be coming after you. This is why AR news holds such heavy weight in the fitness industry, but AR has been loosely explored so far. You have gimmicks that require you to buy things like guns and small devices to throw in order to interact with the world. Perhaps the most ridiculous ones that I have seen are AR applications that require you to print out a specific object in order for the application to work at all.
These applications show just how important object mapping really is for AR applications, but imposing gifs over images, including live video, has been a thing for literally decades. Microsoft has had the HoloLens out for quite some time.
All in All
In this one sweeping convention, Facebook has created several awesome features for the AR/VR environment. We finally have an sdk for AR, we have significant rigging potentials, and it looks like developing games may even become faster, which lowers the entry barrier for new developers. This meeting was really good for the AR community, but Facebook is really just updating its current mission rather than making anything new. This could have just been conveyed over update documents, but since Facebook didn’t invent anything new this time beyond the AR sdk, then it was understandable why they chose to talk about these areas.
Let’s face it: Augmented Reality could be a huge thing for fitness, but what Facebook has just announced now, any anything that came before it for AR, has been just the groundwork of bringing the tech to the masses. Is it there yet? Not really. Will it get there? All experts figure it will and before we even expect it. How could this work to impact on your next workout? Any myriad of ways really. You could be looking through the lens of some glasses that guide you through a workout instead of just trying to find Pokemon characters with your phone. We love this news from Facebook because it makes the possibilities of AR that much more real in the future and we can’t wait to see what will come of this new open road for Augmented Reality and what it could being to the world of fitness. Stay tuned.