08 May 2017

BuzzFeed: “Climbing Out of Facebook’s Reality Hole”

“With augmented reality,” Zuckerberg said, “you’re going to be able to create and discover all sorts of new art around your city.” Yes, someone can create a virtual painting, meant to beautify the city, or leave a virtual note to a loved one that reaches them at just the right moment, in just the right place. But someone else will probably leave a swastika. Because if there is anything to be learned about the modern internet, it is that if you build it, the Nazis will come.


Instead Facebook went into the reality hole. It touted Facebook Spaces, a new social virtual reality thing that helps you escape the world while experiencing it, too. As Rachel Rubin Franklin, who used to be executive producer of Electronic Arts’ “The Sims” game and now runs Facebook’s social VR efforts, said of Spaces: “When your friends and family join your space, it’s just like really being together.”

But it is not. Your avatar is not human, no matter how real it looks. The digital world is not flesh or blood, but it can have a tremendous effect on things that are.

Mat Honan

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook presented their vision for augmented reality, to mixed reactions. On one hand, it was fairly predictable and uninspiring – I mean, I had expected a similar technology after Facebook acquired Oculus three years ago, only without the weird virtual avatars. On the other, it exposes a much deeper problem with Facebook and social networking in general: creating a parallel world for people to escape into, while at the same time ignoring the real-world problems technology was supposed to fix.

Related, a recent study found that the use of Facebook was negatively associated with well-being. On a personal note, lately I feel that increased digital interaction (by messaging) is slowly degrading my connections to friends, I am having a hard time remembering what I discussed and with whom because everything is happening inside the same mobile interface, without differentiation, without physical interaction. You have to wonder, will augmented (or virtual) reality make this better or worse?

  • In fact, I’d argue it’s AR that provides the vastly more real, immediate, and frightening route to dystopian tropes that VR — as an expensive hardware hobby years away from the mainstream — could never yield. Ubiquitous and free-to-use AR built right into our smartphones is fast approaching. That paves the way for aggressive advertising overlaid over every inch of our line of sight, and the kinds of public ranking systems that split society into the have’s and have not’s. You could imagine a future where every inch of wall space becomes an AR canvass for corporate messaging, or Tinder releases an AR add-on powered by facial recognition that lets you identify and swipe on strangers you see on the street.

    Nick Statt
  • At F8 today, Facebook is announcing a bunch of utterly crazy shit that we'll soon be able to do to the pictures we take. That includes Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram and affects, oh, somewhere approaching 2 billion people. But while the company is talking a lot about cameras, it would be a mistake to look at what it is rolling out as a mere photography tool. Yes, there are cool picture effects. But what Facebook is really trying to do is to fully insert itself in the real world. Facebook’s augmented reality camera effects are an early attempt to let the digital infiltrate the physical, a way for the company to become the conduit between everything you see in the world around you, and all the information that exists, via your smartphone.

    Alex Kantrowitz

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