Facebook, parent company of Oculus and Instagram, is all in on artificial realities. Now businesses on its Messenger platform can get in on the act.
At its F8 developer conference on Tuesday, the social tech company revealed new Messenger tools for businesses that want to add augmented reality effects to their Facebook chats. AR, which shows digital information or images layered over the camera’s view of the real world, has been an area of intense interest for the beauty sector in particular, which uses the technology to power virtual makeup try-ons.
Indeed, Sephora is among the first to showcase their use of the new Facebook tech to enable digital makeovers, with AR lipstick, eye shadow and a few starter selections. Nike, another Messenger AR launch partner, will offer Messenger users a sneak preview of its new sneaker style via an AR “red carpet” experience. Other brands that have taken the AR tool for a spin first include carmaker Kia and gaming and PC-maker Asus, which will offer visual tours of vehicles and virtual unboxings, respectively.
“With this launch, businesses large and small can leverage the Camera Effects Platform to easily integrate AR into their Messenger experience, bringing the virtual and physical worlds one step closer together,” said David Marcus, vice president of messaging products, on the company’s blog. “So, when a person interacts with your business in Messenger, you can prompt them to open the camera, which will be pre-populated with filters and AR effects that are specific to your brand. From there, people can share the image or video to their story or in a group or one-to conversation or they can simply save it to their camera roll.”
Messenger’s new AR powers are not yet broadly available; businesses interested in trying it out must apply with Facebook.
The goal, said the tech company, which also introduced “M” language translation and more powerful chatbots, is to help partners communicate better with their customers. To date, its messaging app is teeming with as many as 300,000 chatbots. Messenger’s artificial intelligence, or AI, population could swell even further: With the ability to pull info from common questions posted to a brand’s Facebook page, the feature might bring down the barrier to entry for the bot-curious.
The rollout of the company’s new automatic translation feature will start with English and Spanish for chats related to Marketplace, so sellers and buyers can connect, despite different languages. The plan is to eventually open up the feature across Messenger and add more languages.
Facebook separated Messenger from its main service four years ago, and since then, the app-turned-platform has set off a messaging race of sorts among the tech giants. Apple and Google have turned their attention to business uses for their built-in texting apps, hoping to court companies and brands. There is a key difference between Messenger and the other two texting apps — Facebook’s chat app is “platform agnostic,” which means it will work on either iOS and Android devices. Apple’s iMessage and Google Chat are restricted to their respective systems.
Chats between consumers and businesses account for more than eight billion Messenger messages per month.
Facebook also made a series of updates to strengthen its transparency and give users more control of the data and made updates to its other properties as well.
Instagram, for instance, will now work with Facebook’s AR camera platform and AR Studio, and will get video chat and new “explore” content based on users’ interests later this year.