WHEN HUSSEIN MEHANNA showed off a new incarnation of Facebook’s Big Blue App back in November, it seemed a tiny improvement—at least on the surface. The app could transform a photo from your cousin’s wedding into a Picasso or a Van Gogh or a Warhol, a bit of extra fun for your social media day. But Mehanna and his team of Facebook engineers were laying the groundwork for an audacious effort to change the future of computing—what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls a platform for augmented reality.
Zuckerberg formally unveiled this platform on Tuesday morning during his keynote at F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference. In short, Facebook is transforming the camera on your smartphone into an engine for what is commonly called AR. The company will soon allow outside companies and other developers to build digital effects that you can layer atop what you see through your camera. “This will allow us to create all kinds of things that were only available in the digital world,” Zuckerberg said on stage at the civic center in downtown San Jose, California. “We’re going to interact with them and explore them together.”