You know that businesses are getting serious about augmented reality when Facebook launches AR advertising. The world’s largest social network said recently that it will begin to offer AR ads in users’ news feeds. In doing so, Facebook is once again riding Snapchat’s coattails.

Snapchat has a history of launching innovations such as AR only to have Facebook and Instagram play copycat. Snapchat long ago began incorporating AR into its app via rudimentary filters that allow users to experiment with their appearances, usually by distorting their faces with special effects such as puppy dog ears. And those filters included Lenses, which are like branded AR filters. Facebook now wants a piece of the action.

Although Snapchat loyalists may scoff at Facebook and Instagram following in Snapchat’s footsteps, both platforms play an important role:

  • As I discuss in a new post for Adweek Social Pro Daily, Snapchat makes everyday people more comfortable with AR. When people use AR to play games, create content, and socialize, they’re enhancing natural behaviors – behaviors that make us more comfortable adopting technology because they don’t feel forced.
  • Facebook gives AR scale. With 2 billion monthly users, Facebook can accelerate the update of AR as Snapchat cannot.

Facebook needs to tread carefully. An intrusive AR experience will annoy people and give AR a black eye. And judging by the kind of year Facebook has been having, a flawless update of AR is anything but assured.

Strategically, Snap is focused on being a camera company. Considering their launch of the latest Spectacles, a hands-free video camera wearable device, Snapchat’s ecosystem of Internet of Things and their possibility to activate Augmented Reality in a frictionless way for the consumer is something to watch. As a comparison, Facebook does not have a great track record of launching physical products, and their pipeline of wearables that will facilitate moving closer to the user’s gaze is not clear.

 

At Moonshot, we’ll be watching Facebook and Snapchat closely as both attempt to one-up each other with AR. Snapchat knows how to deliver. Facebook knows how to achieve scale. Is there room for both in AR? Meanwhile, check out my new Adweek post and let me know your thoughts about the future of AR on social media.

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