“Yeah!” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said excitedly in response to a big question for his company: is Facebook working on augmented reality? “It’s a bit further out,” he followed up during a talk about virtual reality at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.
Facebook’s intentions in virtual reality were already clear after buying Oculus, which is already shipping units in partnership with Samsung and is prepping the launch of its flagship headset. Facebook’s Michael Abrash said virtual reality is already “past the knee of the curve,” and has basically arrived. But augmented reality, by its nature, presents a new type of problems, Abrash said — hence it taking a little longer for it to become as feasible as virtual reality.
“It’s very interesting; it’s something we’d all use if it worked well,” Abrash said. “It’s kind of seamless. Maybe it’ll be contacts [or glasses]. You’ll have something on and it’ll be VR and AR as you choose. But right now the VR tech is past the knee of the curve. For AR, it’s harder. There are a whole host of challenges — how you do the optics and displays and get photos onto the eyes, how you have something that’s socially acceptable and comfortable all day. I think VR is here now, I think AR will be here, but it’s a long road to get there.”
Augmented reality represents a different opportunity for Facebook than virtual reality. With VR as is, the Oculus Rift is designed to be an immersive experience that essentially helps the user shut out the rest of the world and focus only on the experience. It will let people experience intimate moments. An example Zuckerberg gave was giving family members the opportunity to watch a child take its first steps.