How Google and Facebook Intend to Continue Developing Socially-Enabled AR Experiences

Takeaways from the two giants' events

Google and Facebook's AR-centered events shared upcoming plans for the two giants. Getty Images, Facebook, Google
Headshot of Julia Sourikoff

It’s well understood that Google and Facebook command the lion’s share of the U.S. digital advertising business, capturing an estimated 56.8 percent of the market by the end of 2018. To bolster their growth strategy in the face of rising competitors like Amazon and Snapchat, both companies are embracing creative production partners with a deep appreciation for tech-elevated storytelling. A few of these types of companies were seen rubbing elbows at two separate invitation-only events hosted by Google and Facebook, who were offering up a crash course in AR advertising.

Before I dive into the recap, I’ll start with a disclaimer that any discussion surrounding unreleased products and campaigns was under strict NDA and won’t be mentioned in the following paragraphs. Caveats aside, there are still plenty of tools and opportunities currently available to advertisers that are interested in creating socially-enabled AR experiences.

Let’s start with Google’s create AR day, a hands-on investigation into contextual storytelling, object-based interfaces and world-scale OS. Here’s a summary of some of the key takeaways that every creative technologist in the ad world should be aware of.

Enable shared moments

New software updates to Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit allow multiple devices to simultaneously view the same AR scene in real time. Using a combination of GPS and computer vision, the phone’s camera detects distinct features of a scene that are shared between two devices and can then articulate the AR content based on the user’s position in that environment.


Think about how an AR scene can be a catalyst for conversation and connection between two or more users, rather than an isolated experience.

Context can be many things

It’s well understood that Google and Facebook command the lion’s share of the U.S. digital advertising business, capturing an estimated 56.8 percent of the market by the end of 2018.

Smartphones can detect numerous layers of information based on the context in which they’re used. Data inputs that identify things like who, what, when, where and activity state can generate a unique outcome for each user. Imagine tailoring an AR experience to a user session that transpires at home on a weekday morning versus one that occurs downtown on a Saturday night.


Brands should challenge themselves to create flexible experiences that have the illusion of always showing up at the right place and at the right time. 

Search for the micro-moments

AR is a great medium to pursue opportunities where brands can become assistive and considerate. Be conscious of the on-demand wants of the consumer and identify the helpful gestures that can go a long way. Things like navigation, connecting with friends and shopping will continue to be transformed by mobile innovations like AR, so look for ways to improve existing applications.


Consider how AR content can be leveraged as a stand-in for product try-ons, testing and in-situ previewing.

Territories for creative exploration

According to Google, there are six: self-transformation, visualizations in context, ability to right-click the world, the world as a playground, bringing objects to life and revealing the invisible. To these I would add human connection and assistive applications.


Don’t attempt an all-in-one. Choose the territory you want to explore and strive for a concise and uncompromising result.

Next up is Facebook’s AR Studio day, which included representatives from the AR Studio developer platform, Messenger and Instagram. One of Facebook’s primary focuses is on helping people find new ways to express themselves through various new tracking features:

  • Face-tracking, such as Mike’s Messenger Karaoke
  • Target-tracking, such as Warner Bros’ Ready Player One and Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time executions.
  • Hand-tracking, which is coming soon.
  • Body-tracking, which is coming soon.

Contextual storytelling is another tenant of Facebook’s AR philosophy. Semantic scene understanding is a core feature that enables AR content to adapt to its respective environment. Recognized objects become triggers for relevant scenes. For example, if the camera sees a refrigerator or oven, it knows it’s in a kitchen and can place a new Cuisinart or Nespresso appliance on a nearby flat surface.

The team at Facebook Messenger was particularly bullish on utility-driven and commerce-activated AR experiences. Planting an AR experience between the lines of a chatbot conversation generates opportunities for customization, product walkthroughs and virtual “try-ons.” Examples like the Asus Virtual Unboxing, the Sephora Virtual Assistant and Kia’s Summon the Stinger campaign are business case examples that show how Messenger can be an effective driver for commerce.

The long-term plan is to distribute AR Studio technology across Messenger, Instagram and Facebook Lite, but don’t expect it to live uniformly across the entire ecosystem. The team is still setting their strategic roadmap for how branded experiences work as a 360 campaign across every app in the ecosystem, but it’s likely that advertisers will need to consider each platform’s unique set of UX capabilities once those have been established. And if this feels like a daunting task for brands, keep in mind that’s where Facebook’s community of creative production partners can be most helpful.

To stay abreast of AR Studio’s latest features and projects, you can follow @ARStudioCreators on Facebook or in Messenger. It’s already attracted about 11,000 members, proving that the developer partnerships team’s efforts are already paying off.

@juliasourikoff Julia Sourikoff is the executive producer of AR/VR at Tool of North America.