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Facebook's Bet on an Augmented Reality Future (forbes.com)
35 points by prostoalex 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

AR / VR has been the biggest bust of all tech buzz words in the last decade. The hardware is currently too expensive and awkward for normal use, and the only thing that captured the public's imagination was Pokemon Go, which was ultimately a summer fad. Snapchat Spectacles was a flop.

I think AR will be a game changer, but honestly it's still a long ways out, maybe another decade even.

I have a rift and it has exceeded all my expectations in terms of performance. Sure I would be happier if it was lighter and had no cord.

But the big issue is the dearth of content. There are a handful of high quality games for the thing, and a large number of amateur early-access dreck. I really want to spend time with the thing but haven't found anything thats' compelling for more than a handful of hours (and even those run $20+). It's a medium that's still waiting for its Pacman IMO

If you haven't played Lone Echo yet, then please play Lone Echo. You honestly wont regret it.

Definitely still think it's niche for now but the more polished experiences are starting to trickle out.

It was overhyped, as with any new technology, but hardware always gets cheaper and better fast. Not close to mainstream right now, it's still very early adopter mode. But prices of Rift/Vive have about halved in the last year, and headsets trending wireless. Many that do have those headsets though, swear by them.

hardware always gets cheaper and better fast

This is an article of faith taken for granted by software people, but keep in mind this had only been happening because of specific improvements to wafer process technology. It's not a guaranteed trend.

Yup. I worked on a VR project for an educational setting (target price point after hardware being about the same as a smart-board). Basically the goal was a 3d geometry lesson but a per classroom cost cheaper than a smart-board. All the testing up through the time I left was very encouraging.

The arc of progress is long.

AR is going to be rammed down consumer throats, because when the tech is complete it's amazing for corporations. Pretty much as complete access to someone now days as a cellphone, but you have an easier time setting up a walled garden and "compatibility" difficulties that are difficult on a technical level as well as a DRM level, at later levels of investment AR could be even more "always on" than a cellphone, and you gain access to eye tracking so you can gain an even clearer insight to interests/ad interaction.

At least another decade! There are significant technical hurdles for any near-eye display, such as brightness both of the AR components, and pass-through of the real world. Those are not solved problems, especially without creating a $10,000+ device. Resolution is a challenge, especially with something like an FSD, and with diffractive waveguides other optical gremlins lurk. Form factor is also no joke when wearing something on your face, especially when it’s being partly supported by your nose.

Throwing money at this is necessary to solve the issues outlined, but not today and not next year. It’s also possible thst in a decade we’ll discover that other issues arise which require, surprise, more time and money to solve. Remember that for most people AR/VR still has to compete with traditional displays, which get cheaper, have higher resolution, and are lighter and thinner than ever before.

If really flexible screens or holographic tech makes a leap in that decade+ too, then AR/VR could find that it’s no longer even that desirable as more than a niche tool/toy.

A pair of glasses that shape your reality according to the desires of a marketing company. No thanks.

so sure. oculus is cool.

i even know a few people working there; they're smart dudes.


they're being managed by an organization whose ops group can't remember to renew certs and whose marketing group thinks it's cool to demo first person shooters at NRA events the day after a mass shooting where you play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform.

as smart as the tech guys are, the organizational + business guys aren't really the sharpest tools in the drawer.

I'm sure you had a valuable point to make but the blatant inaccuracy in your comment distracts from any effectiveness your point may have had.

* It was a game killing random robots, not people.

* It wasn't an NRA event, it was CPAC where the NRA was one of many presenters.

* It was not the day after, it was a week after.

You could argue that these are minor errors, but that's not the point. You've already tarnished your credibility so it's hard to take anything else you retort with at face value.

It's unfortunate because I think you had a decent point about optics.

They're also not "random", they're an armed SWAT military/police squad.

Even if they were humans, it would be "Half Life 2", not "No Russian".

The "person" in "first person shooter" refers to the narrative perspective of the player (ie. first person, third person) and not the species that is being "shot at"


> where you play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform

> where you play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform

It's robots[0] not "random people", but yeah lets not let facts get in the way of your editorialising.

[0] https://www.geeky-gadgets.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Bul...

It was also a week later. Not the day after.


What I don't understand (beyond why Facebook would be at CPAC to begin with....) is why they would demo 'Bullet Train' in 2018.

This demo was considered too much of a murder simulator, and eventually became the VERY POPULAR game ROBO RECALL in 2016. In that game the guns are much more sci-fi, and it eliminates many of the violence concerns. It's an awesome game. Why didn't they bring that instead of a ~4yr old demo?

I know this isn't exactly what you're saying (the timing with the mass shooting is, well, a shot in the foot), but it kind of reads like "Oculus has the wrong politics".

To be clear: I'm not saying you are consciously condemning Oculus for having the wrong politics, but maybe the right politics/wrong politics angle is coloring your view of the business world. Which it shouldn't.

Mistakes happen, people are human. I don't know that is fair to judge everything Oculus and Facebook are doing based on a couple of incidents; every company, good or bad, large or small, is bound to suffer from minor mishaps occasionally.

> demo first person shooters at NRA events the day after a mass shooting where you play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform

Do you have a source for this?

It wasn't the day after, but it was less than 10 days after. The students had just started going back to school. https://twitter.com/snmrrw/status/967136708058927104 Also it wasn't an NRA event, but the NRA did speak at CPAC this year.

Thanks for the link - it turns out it was also not a game where you

> play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform

It's just a regular shooter game with some novel time-warp mechanics in it, that happens to take place in a futuristic train station.

Agreed, also yeah I still don't see AR being used in everyday life still, maybe for a few applications but it still feels like just a cool tech "fad" right now, plus still very expensive for your everyday consumer.

Right, but once it becomes cheap and tasteful, and it eventually will, then the first company to implement "recognize face -> socially useful annotations" wins the next round of the social network game. If facebook misses the mark, they die. Life support for occulus is a cheap hedge against an existential threat.

How would the people walking around with cameras on their faces feeding facial recognition data to Facebook inform those who end up in their line of sight that they had unknowingly agreed to Facebook's privacy policy by being there?

> it's cool to demo first person shooters at NRA events the day after a mass shooting where you play the part of a deranged mass shooter killing random people on a train platform

Sounds much cooler than hypocritically cancelling an event just because of the unfortunate news cycle.

I had a bad interview experience with Oculus. This was fairly early on in their history, before the acquisition and before Carmack joined.

First interview was scheduled at a not-so-great time (I was in a different timezone, which they knew, but didn't seem to care enough to pick a less inconvenient time). My interviewer never showed up on skype. They apologized, rescheduled (I insisted on a more reasonable time). The interviewer showed up quite late, and only one of the two showed up. It went well, but had to schedule a follow up with the other one. That one went well also. We eventually got to the point where I was talking to HR about specifics of the offer, and everyone went completely silent. I tried to follow up a few times, but never heard back. I assume they found someone else, but have the respect to write back.

Years later, I watched one of Carmack's talk and one of his complaints was just how bad they (he had joined Oculus at this point) were at stores infrastructure, discovery and payment and all of that. Seems pretty clear to me there's problem inside the non-core engineering aspect of the company.

This is easy. Business is hard. Hacking is fun. As a founder you desperately don't want to deal with all of the annoying parts of being a business owner. You just want to hack and do the point of your place, not deal with pesky "business" things. I am talking simple things like taxes, etc.

If you let that mentality bleed into things like setting up every part of your organization to be awesome you get this siloing effect. If you are a ONLY HIRE A-PLAYERS type company, that doesn't mean only hire great engineers. It means everyone needs to be great at what they do. Including HR, operations, etc. A lot of companies with super smart guys miss this. They still go on to success but I know from experience and at least a couple of friends that went very large in valuation and growth on the typical startup path that not taking more time on their company culture and instilling their values in ALL of the organization before it went meteoric caused them no end of grief and made them dislike their company, even though they built awesome engineering organization at the end of it all.

(edit: sample size of two from personal experience, but based on observation, this seems almost axiomatic based on how so many startups go when you read their stories)

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have some really limited applications. There are maybe 5 or 6 silver bullet consumer ideas I can think of, but they’re such prohibitively expensive concepts that I can’t think of a way to bring these ideas to a wide audience to distribute costs, such that mass appeal gains realistic traction toward high adoption and growth potential.

In fact, these ideas might only make sense under circumstances where there is literally nothing to do for really, really long periods of time, waiting around in tight quarters until you’re able to unbuckle and move freely. In other words during space travel.

I hope that’s where this is going. Any other setting or context for application of such technologies doesn’t make any normal amount of sense. And this fits, since space travel isn’t exactly normal yet.

My intuition tells me Carmack and Zuckerburg have discussed this WRT rocket ships and outer space. And that combination of subject matter, legitimate credibility, intellect and wealth is the only thing that makes sense, to justify such a bet.

just about every technology giant is racing to build AR functionality into their products and ecosystems

If there's anything that'll kill AR before it's really had a chance it's a million different APIs that aren't compatible with each other, leading to developers choosing to support different platforms and users not knowing which one is actually suitable for them.

Keep your eye on Unity. It's bridging that gap and becoming the go-to AR dev tool that supports most of the leading hardware platforms. Wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft (or another big AR player) acquire it - I'm sure a lot of companies are eyeing it hard atm.

As for what could kill AR "before its had its chance" (AR has actually been around for a long, long time) - lack of wearable hardware. AR apps on phones/ipads/handheld devices are nice, and getting better all the time, but generally don't have the potential to increase productivity to the extent that hands free glasses/headset can. Wearable hardware needs to get more powerful, less intrusive, and have better/ubiquitous connection (more bandwidth than current cellular, potentially 5G could solve this issue).

I wouldn't be too worried about that. OpenXR is still baking, but I think it'll help the API issue when it's ready.

Now we're starting to get some clues for the real reason Facebook wants everyone to give it the facial biometric profile. AR is not the only reason, but it's probably up there with the main ones. I doubt security (the only reason they've given so far for collecting facial biometrics) is even in the top 5.

So once everyone is walking around with cameras on their faces feeding data back to Facebook/Google/whoever 24/7 and running facial recognition on everyone in sight, how are those of us who object supposed to opt out of the privacy policies of those companies? "Just stop leaving your house"?

They should launch some lightweight AR glasses for developers, extending laptops with virtual screens, basically like additional monitors for laptops over an USB-C dongle. They (FB) have already a good standing among web and mobile developers, why not try it with hardware too.

Is it just me or is this entire article essentially just breathlessly raving about Facebook copying everything that Snapchat has done for years?

I feel like the article doesn't hit upon the number one reason big companies like FB and Google are investing literally billions in mixed reality systems. That right now they are the most likely thing to evolve into what replaces smartphones.

Also contextual Augmented reality Ads could be a thing.

Hasn't anyone seen Black Mirror?

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