Zuckerberg went one further on his veiled slight against Apple – which is planning to make a change to the iPhone’s software with the potential to significantly hobble Facebook’s ad revenues – and said he was keen to avoid glasses that effectively “put an Apple Watch on your face”.
For some, the Facebook chief’s ambitions remain some way into the future, and the reputational damage the social network has taken may prevent it from nailing the AR market.
“I think the underlying driver for Zuckerberg’s vision is purely business, he wants to control the whole ecosystem of people’s worlds,” says Carlton Reeve, the head of one of the world’s few dedicated augmented reality courses at the University of Bradford.
“Zuckerberg doesn’t want to rely on anyone else’s technology, it makes his business weak. I think it would be foolish to ignore the enormous weight and power that Apple exerts through its product line.
“What Apple has which Facebook doesn’t is that, amongst consumers at least, Apple is trusted. And it’s cool. Facebook isn’t cool anymore.”
Despite Reeve’s doubts around Facebook’s ability to convince the masses, he is a strong believer that Zuckerberg’s broad outline of the future could become a reality.
“The pandemic has shown us how quickly we adapt to technologies like Zoom in times of necessity,” he says.
“I think the same is true for the holographic representation of our loved ones. In those times where we can’t be physically close, I can see that coming to the fore and being a really helpful, positive substitute for the real thing.”
Despite Zuckerberg’s ambitions, Facebook has yet to make the most of AR and Apple is seen as a leader in the space, at least so far.
“Apple probably made the most progress in the digital quality of the virtual objects with [how augmented reality is used on its iPads], and what they do with the shading and reflection probes within the object,” says Matt Key, founder of AR marketing platform Reydar.
“The idea with augmented reality and virtual reality is that people see instantly how much of a game changer it is.”
Facebook is playing catch up though. The company is sending hundreds of staff out into the public wearing prototype glasses to start testing the technology, and has said it will launch consumer-grade smart glasses next year, although full augmented reality specs are further off.
Zuckerberg’s view of the future is clear: there will be no iPhone.