Facebook and Snapchat are continuously competing in the social media arena: for users, advertisers and features. Last week, both platforms announced new augmented reality tools that offer a preview of how users will soon use their devices to interact with the physical world around them.

Last week at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision of what he sees as the first mainstream augmented reality platform, allowing people to view and digitally alter their surroundings through their smartphone cameras. While this technology is new, and so far limited to simple filters layered on photos and videos, Facebook has an ambitious vision of the future. According to the New York Times:

But in Mr. Zuckerberg’s telling, there are few boundaries for how this technology will evolve. He said he envisioned a world in which people could eventually point smartphone cameras at a bowl of cereal and have an app create tiny sharks swimming in the milk. Friends can leave virtual notes for one another on the walls outside their favorite restaurants, noting which menu item is the most delicious.

At the conference, Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s Camera Effects Platform, which calls for artists and developers to build effects for the Facebook camera, ranging from simple photo frames to interactive augmented reality filters:

Frame Studio is now open to anyone with a profile or Page, allowing users to design frames to overlay on profile pictures, or in the new Facebook camera

  • AR Studio is in beta, and will “enable artists and developers to build their own AR experiences such as animated frames, masks, and interactive effects that respond to motion, interactions during Live broadcasts, or third-party data”

Not to be outdone, Snapchat released its new World Lenses last week, a twist on the app’s popular face filters. Now users aren’t just limited to using the front-facing selfie camera to create fun visual effects; they can view a scene through the rear-facing camera and scroll through a selection of 3D lenses that will be updated daily.

Snapchat users can move the lenses around the screen before taking a photo or video. Once placed, the object appears as it would in the real world, getting bigger as the camera gets closer, smaller as it moves farther away.

Facebook and Snapchat’s new features are moving augmented reality away from science fiction and closer to everyday experiences.

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