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Facebook’s Messenger and Portal will support third-party AR effects next year

It also partnered with the New York Times and the Smithsonian on new AR projects.
Nicole Lee, @nicole
September 16, 2020
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You might already be aware of third-party AR effects on Instagram and Facebook, many of which have become increasingly popular during quarantine. Soon, those effects could be coming to Messenger and Portal as well. At today’s Facebook Connect, the company announced that it’ll open up both Portal and Messenger to Spark AR creator publishing beginning next year. That means that in addition to the first-party Facebook-developed AR effects that Messenger and Portal have right now, they’ll soon have access to third-party ones too.

Facebook has also announced that it’s partnering with the New York Times on a new AR Lab to explore “AR-first journalism” that aims to help people understand news topics in a more interactive and “hands-on” way. According to the company, these AR stories will “merge digital, print and mobile” with Instagram. One example that Facebook showed was an AR visualization of air pollution during the pandemic in different parts of the world. 

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In addition to the New York Times, Facebook is partnering with the Smithsonian as well to add AR experiences to its collections and artifacts.

AR is fast becoming one of the main ways users interact with Facebook apps. According to the company, more than 600 million people use AR across Facebook apps and devices each month, and there are now over 400,000 creators from 190 countries publishing over 1.2 million AR effects on Facebook and Instagram. The company said that over half of these creators (55 percent) are women as well. 

AR on Facebook isn’t just constrained to funny face filters and quizzes either. The company is also experimenting with using them for commerce, like with AR Try On in Instagram Ads or Facebook Shop, where users can virtually “try on” a makeup sample or an item of clothing without having to go to the store (certainly a welcome move during COVID times). Other examples of AR Try On include placing a virtual piece of furniture in your home to see if it fits, which is similar to what WayFair and IKEA have done with their own apps.  

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 Another important aspect of AR at Facebook is that it helps provide research and insight into the development of its AR glasses. “AR is becoming kind of central to the way that people are connecting across all of our apps, and we think that’s also a pretty interesting indicator of where we’re going,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We said we’re going to build AR glasses and we’re really passionate about building that habituation and skill set today with people.”

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