Well done Facebook

Posted on Mar 4, 2018

Last week Facebook introduced glTF support (that’s an L), allowing the upload of 3D models into its platform.
This is big for brands, which will be able to show their products in a way pictures can’t: 3D allows exploration and interaction allowing the customers to imagine how the product would fit in their lives. But it’s also big to Facebook, which is leveraging its userbase to strong-arm into the AR war that’s brewing in the tech world.


LEGO’s glTF 3D model. Feel free to click and drag to explore it.


We’ve gone full circle

¿Anyone remembers the first years of the modern smartphone? There were many more players back then, all competing for the same prize. At the front there was Apple, enjoying the momentum of the iPhone. Behind there was Google, with Android, but also Nokia with Symbian and Meego, Palm with WebOS, Microsoft with Windows, BlackBerry with BB 7 OS and 10.
They all had redeeming qualities in some way of another, but the killer feature was (and still is) the app ecosystem.

Palm’s WebOS was a thing of beauty. It has pioneered many of the UX principles we are seeing today.
Palm’s WebOS was a thing of beauty. It has pioneered many of the UX principles we are seeing today.

If users didn’t find the apps they wanted it was enough reason to return the phone and get a new one. If an OS didn’t have enough users, developers simply wouldn’t bother to develop for it. It was a chicken and egg problem.

Soon all the smartphone platforms but Android and iOS pivoted or just perished. Palm’s WebOS enjoys a quiet life in LG’s smart TVs, BlackBerry’s QNX has some affairs with the automotive industry, Meego has found its way in open source projects, and Microsoft just froze the project until new notice.


The ecosystem wars part 2

AR is in a state that everyone in the tech world “gets it” but mass market adoption isn’t there yet. The big players and startups alike are betting that this is going to be the next thing. Now on smartphones, soon on glasses.
Google and Android are trying to leverage their already large number of active devices by releasing AR platforms that work in their smartphones without changes. From the VR side there’s HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus. Steam, while gamer focused can be a big player on its niche. Microsoft aims to be hardware agnostic with its definition of “Mixed reality”. In between, startups that try to bring cheaper AR, better AR, code once – deploy everywhere AR.

Competition is tough and naturally the concept of “exclusives” have been there since its inception, with companies trying to lock each other out of the market.


Facebook is playing its cards smartly

If it isn’t Facebook, it’s Instagram or WhatsApp. The way we communicate today goes through Facebook in one way or another. They know this and they will use this advantage as long as they can.

They also know that they can’t be too complacent: lag behind a little bit and a new “revolutionary” AR platform will appear and steal users from them.

glTF seems a small addition right now, but as new features are added, Facebook will have an AR marketing powerhouse, but more importantly, they will have both users and brands on board.


Featured photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

Facebook’s announcement: https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/2018/02/20/3d-posts-facebook/

Sei Nakamura is a Digital Designer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. nakamurasei.com

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