There has been a steady increase in the role of augmented reality in our daily lives, especially in our communication.
If you’ve ever used a lens or filter on Snapchat or Instagram, you may not have realized it, but you were participating in Augmented Reality. It might seem like a stretch compared to visions of a future that involve AR contact lenses, but mass consumer AR really took off with messaging. It might seem trivial, but this marked a pivotal moment: it was the first time digital and base reality were merged on a mass-scale, and used to change the way we could communicate with each other.
Right now, we are in the midst of even more revolutionary growth in AR that will evolve our communication far beyond basic texted-based interaction.
How is AR Being Used in Communication?
Apple’s ARKit and Animojis
Two weeks ago, Apple announced the new iPhone X and the iOS 11 software update, which included AR apps in the App Store. These apps were built in Apple’s AR development software ARKit (itself first announced in June), which allows for amazing AR interaction through the phone camera’s ability to detect depth, ambient light and motion in its environment.
The iPhone X will also feature face detection, or Face ID, which will allow users to unlock their phone with their face instead of their fingerprint.
Face ID, in tandem with ARKit, made way for the creation of another Apple development: “Animojis,” emojis that move with your face.
There are about a dozen Animojis to choose from, allowing you to send more personalized emojis to your friends and families, and convey emotion more specifically than a text or static emoji ever could.
Though we haven’t had a chance to witness how Animojis will permeate mass culture, given the popularity of messaging apps and AR apps, it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing some creative uses for this new feature. The possibilities for corporate tie-ins alone are endless.
Snap Inc. introduced face filters in Snapchat as a fun way to chat with friends. The filter recognizes the shape of the user’s face and follows their movements. See below Kylie Jenner’s classic snapchat go-to, the dog filter.
The app later introduced “World Lens,” which works similarly to the face filters but instead of adding the augmented objects to your face, it adds them to the environment.
Sky lenses, for instance, can change a drab picture into one with a gorgeous sunset backdrop.
Then Snapchat expanded their world lenses to include 3D bitmojis, animated characters designed to look like their respective user. These characters can dance, wave, or do a variety of movements expanding the world of possibility.
Facebook and Instagram
Snapchat led the initial charge into the realm of AR, but it certainly isn’t the only social media platform utilizing the tech. Instagram and parent company Facebook have both been rolling out AR communication developments. Instagram added face filters to compete with Snapchat, and both clearly see immense potential for AR in social media.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg imagines an extensive future for AR in communication and has major plans for new Facebook developments, including AR glasses. He said experiences will be broken down into three different types: altering objects in the physical world (like drawing or writing on them), layering objects (projecting videos onto a blank screen), or enhancing objects (face filters).
Facebook has released the beta AR Studio, which are tools that allow developers to create their own AR animations on the Facebook platform.
So What Does This All Mean?
These major developments feel like the beginning of a larger movement and a re-examination of daily communication. And there are major debates as to who will truly lead the revolution in AR, especially following the release of Apple’s ARKit.
AR has the ability to overcome language barriers and differing abilities, and will allow for a modes of connection that we haven’t even fully begun to understand. So the next time you try out a new face filter, just remember you’re helping bring the digital future to life.