Social media: Facebook’s augmented-reality future
Facebook has more or less conquered the internet. Now the social network wants to become “the default way you interact with the world,” said Jack Morse in Mashable.com. At Facebook’s annual developer conference last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a futuristic vision for a world in which Facebook is literally everywhere. Using augmented-reality technology—available first on smartphones and later via high-tech glasses—Facebookers will be able to see digital messages and images from the social network layered on top of the physical world. A blank wall might show a colorful digital mural when viewed through Facebook’s platform, or the sidewalk may light up with directions to your destination. Users can also leave their own digital mark in the real world, “like a message in your favorite café imploring your buddy to order your favorite sandwich.”
That’s not even the craziest stuff Facebook is working on, said Lisa Eadicicco in Time.com. In the company’s secretive research lab, known as Building 8, a team of 60 people is working on a “computer interface powered by the human brain.” The technology would allow people to “type” using only their minds, by “decoding users’ neural activity.” That would make it easier, for example, to control a pair of smart glasses. “It’s easy to roll your eyes at a lot of this stuff,” said Jake Swearingen in NYMag.com. Even Facebook executives admit that it might take decades to fully realize some of their more fantastic visions. But the company has assembled a formidable team of scientists, led by the former head of research at DARPA, the Pentagon’s elite research agency. With Google pulling back from some of its expensive “moon shot” projects, “Facebook’s futurism suddenly makes it seem very different from the rest of the Silicon Valley crowd.”
That’s not necessarily a good thing, said Nick Statt in TheVerge.com. Imagine advertising plastered on literally everything you see—or worse, Yelplike ratings and reviews displayed above businesses, products, and even people. We might be a long way from mind-reading computers, but augmented reality is already used in messaging apps like Snapchat and mobile games like Pokémon Go. “We don’t have to speculate what it would take for this type of tech to arrive in the real world. It’s already here.” Instead of rushing to augment reality, maybe Facebook “should pay a bit more attention to the hard truths of the world in which we currently live,” said Mat Honan in BuzzFeed.com. In his presentation last week, Zuckerberg only briefly touched on the fact that a man had just posted a murder and its aftermath using the company’s Facebook Live platform. I’ll feel a lot better about Facebook’s new technologies when the company shows it can cope with the unintended consequences of the ones it has already created.
AP, Oak Ridge National Laboratory ■