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In a jab at Snapchat, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday that Facebook will be making the "first mainstream augmented reality platform out of the camera," positioning it as "Act 2" for the company.
"We see something different ... in order to create better tools," Zuckerberg said. "We need an open platform where any developer in the world can build for augmented reality without having to first build a camera and get a lot of people to use it."
Zuckerberg spoke at the annual Facebook Developer Conference, or F8, at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. In his address, he debuted an early version of a new feature that allows users to scroll through features like "face masks," with thousands of options, from creators across the world.
The feature builds off Facebook's "Act 1," according to Zuckerberg — which included a widespread implementation of Snapchat-like "stories." He said the phone camera is a primitive, early first step that can make augmented reality mainstream ahead of hardware like contact lenses.
It comes after Snap, which calls itself a "camera company," announced it was adding its popular Snapchat Lenses feature, which superimposes 3-D effects over real-world photos, to the rear-facing camera option on your smartphone.
So far, it's been hazy how virtual reality fits into Facebook's goals to connect the world, beyond augmented reality applications similar to Snapchat's. However, he hinted that Facebook will release some kind of glasses or headset: "Over time I think this is going to be a really important technology. All the work that we are doing here is going into glasses we all want. It's all the same technology. This is another step on the path there."
Facebook's interest in augmented reality seems to be eclipsing its virtual reality ambitions, including the Oculus Rift headset, although Zuckerberg said the two would go "hand in hand." Augmented reality superimposes images on the real world, while virtual reality immerses people in a computer-generated world.
The Oculus business has been a sore spot for Wall Street analysts, who have questioned whether Oculus is on track to make money as competitors jump ahead. Oculus, which was purchased by Facebook for $3 billion in 2014, has also faced legal fallout over its intellectual property, after a grueling court case resulted in a $500 million judgment against the company.