Facebook brings Snapchat-like AR filters to the Messenger app

(Image credit: Facebook)

Image credit: Facebook

Virtual reality may be comparatively stuck in the mud for the time being, but augmented reality is in full gear.

Facebook realizes this, and to that effect it has announced it’s bringing new Snapchat-style augmented reality features called World Effects to its Facebook Messenger app. They’re basically the same things as Snapchat’s World Lenses.

The basic idea is that you can drop 3D objects into your photos to make them appear as though they’re there in real life, such as a heart over someone’s head. A bit more usefully, you could use a floating arrow to point out a specific location in a wide shot.

The news accompanies the announcement that Facebook is letting the general public use its augmented reality Camera Effects Platform and AR Studio kit, which lets developers create items like “masks” that fit over your face in photos. It also means independent developers can make World Lenses of their own.

Originally the kit was limited to just 2,000 or so entities, which led to such memorable filters such as one for Game of Thrones that made users look like the Night King or one for Star Wars that made them look like Kylo Ren.

About face

In a sense, this is Facebook’s way of playing catch-up with Apple and Google, both of whom released their own AR kits for developers earlier this year.

Facebook is at a bit of advantage in that its kit technically works across any iOS or Android smart device, but it also suffers a bit since its third-party status keeps it from the kind of insider tricks users of Apple’s ARKit can use with the iPhone X.

The benefits of direct camera access could be seen just yesterday in Google’s launch of Star Wars and Stranger Things AR “stickers” for its two Pixel 2 smartphones, which makes drop characters from both properties into your photos and videos.