Facebook Messenger wants you to engage with businesses using augmented reality

Facebook Messenger AR

Augmented reality (AR) is helpful for letting customers see what they're purchasing before hitting the 'buy' button, and now Facebook is rolling out this useful feature to the Messenger app. Kind of. 

Launching in a closed beta, AR is coming to Messenger for businesses that use bots, or automated messaging systems to communicate with customers. 

By utilizing Facebook's Camera Effects Platform, businesses can add brand-specific effects that their customers can engage with. All customers have to do is open the camera on their phone, and filters and AR effects pop up.

The limited launch sees partners Nike, Kia, Asus and Sephora offering users a way to, for example, see a Kia Stinger in different colors, or what certain makeups look like on their face. 

There are no OS or hardware requirements for AR to work on Messenger, though again, this is a closed beta limited to certain partners for now. 

AR offers a new way for brands to engage with customers

AR offers a new way for brands to engage with customers

Users can then turn around and share the experiences with others in a group chat or one-on-one message, or in a Facebook Story. 

The idea is that friends and family can give feedback on the product, mirroring the shopping in-store experience one might have with someone whose opinion they value. 

According to Facebook, there are over 300,000 active bots on Messenger, and 8 billion messages are shared between people and businesses every month. 

It remains to be seen whether the new AR effects provide real value to customers or are merely a novelty, but it's clear Facebook is actively developing its AR features. Apple's ARKit and Google ARCore better watch out.