Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company is working seriously on augmented reality R&D, but he believes it will take time for the technology to catch up to where VR is today.

In an interview with The Verge’s Casey Newton, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talked about his views on the future of virtual and augmented reality.

When it comes to augmented reality, Zuckerberg says that the company is “researching AR very seriously,” but sees consumerization of the technology lagging behind where VR is today.

“[With] AR, there’s still more science questions that need to be worked out, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have the answers to that pretty soon,” he told Newton. “Within the next five or 10 years, we’ll have versions of that that are maybe where Rift is today, for AR. But, there’s no doubt in my mind that VR is easier to build and bring to a lot of people, and that’s why we’re are starting here on the product side.”

Zuckerberg notes the trend of increasingly natural human-computer interactions, starting with room-sized computers that “you almost needed a degree to be able to use,” followed by desktop computers, mice, the internet, and phones, the latter of which he called “the first mainstream computing platform. People really like it, but that’s not the end of the line, either. There’s going to be something more.”

mark zuckerberg brendan iribe
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) checking out the Rift with Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe (right) | Photo courtesy Mark Zuckerberg

Ultimately Zuckerberg sees the need to go into our pockets for our phones disappearing completely.

“You’ll just have glasses, or eventually contact lenses. [You’ll be able to] look around and see different things and interact with [by] using your hands and reaching out and grabbing stuff,” he said. “That, I think, is the next logical step for how we’ll interact with this. We’re really excited about pushing both of those trends forward.”

Unless the secretive Magic Leap has something truly revolutionary up their sleeve, I’m in the same boat of Zuckerberg’s assessment of the AR timeline. It’s incredibly exciting technology which is going to change so much, but the reality is that the consumerization of the technology is a few years behind where VR is today. Back in March, I made the case for the Meta 2 AR headset being as important of a stepping stone as Oculus’ Rift DK1 was back in 2013:

The careful reader of this article’s headline (Meta 2 Could Do for Augmented Reality What Rift DK1 Did for Virtual Reality), will spot a double entendre.

Many people right now think that the VR and AR development timelines are right on top of each other—and it’s hard to blame them because superficially the two are conceptually similar—but the reality is that AR is, at best, where VR was in 2013 (the year the DK1 launched). That is to say, it will likely be three more years until we see the ‘Rifts’ and ‘Vives’ of the AR world shipping to consumers.

[…]

Like Rift DK1 in 2013, Meta 2 isn’t perfect in 2016, but it could play an equally important role in the development of consumer augmented reality.

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  • Jim Cherry

    way to hedge your bets zuckerberg. 5 years from now is about the time it took rift to go from concept to cv1 while 10 years is the time it took us to go from suitcase sized laptops of the late 80s to the first thinkpad laptops by ibm.

  • beestee

    For Magic Leap’s sake, let’s hope that Zuck is wrong.

  • Robin Coné

    Magic Leap will bring us MR 2017-2018. I resell my vive waiting next year for its incredible digital light field technology.

    • ar is moving much faster compared ot vr developements. hololens is the best example. See full reviews on Choozurmobile

  • Can anyone say “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”? Cause that’s what Zukerberg seems to be saying. He’s totally sidestepping the fact that Meta and Microsoft have working models of proven tech. And the Japanese have of course been tinkering on AR projects for years.

    All this tells me is “Hey, come back over here and look at my shiny Occulus Rift! We’re Facebook, we know what’s best for you. Everything you will ever need is in my walled garden.”

    • Justos

      Actually thats just your interpretation. Meta and MS have thousand dollar development products that no consumer in their right mind would pay for. Lack of utility and just pretty shitty.

      VR is definitely consumer ready. But AR? Nah. Not for a while. Its much harder to pull off. I dont see how you spun it off as an ad for the Rift either.

      • brandon9271

        When you look at how quickly Rift went from DK1 to CV1 i think a 10 year window for AR is very pessimistic.

  • Barry

    I feel that we are going to need to come up with a more thorough definition of Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. Both Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens are saying they are Mixed Reality units.

    The Wikipedia view: Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

    The Wikipedia view: Mixed reality (MR)—sometimes referred to as hybrid reality—is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

    (A side note: Wikipedia feels that its page on Mixed Reality may need to be rewritten entirely in order to be more up to date)

    Microsoft has the dev kits for the HoloLens out there now. Magic Leap is hinting about consumer release in the 2017 – 2018 timeframe. Since the first consumer versions of the Rift and the Vive are less than a year old, I find it convenient that Zuckerberg feels that the adoption of AR is ‘In Five to Ten Years AR Will Be Where VR is Today’. Feels more like a pitch to get in line and buy your Rift now. No need to wait for those other technologies.

    I’ve not yet seen Magic Leap’s technology yet but the HoloLens is a Windows 10 computer and display system in a wireless headband. Once the HoloLens launches it has the potential for a much faster adoption for business use than the current crop of VR headsets. The HoloLens dev version has a little ways to go before it’s ready for prime time but you can realize after only a few minutes of use that the possibilities in business use are wide-ranging.

    I’ve seen the results from some of the HoloLens hack-a-thons and the teams that were developing on the HoloLens were able to build some compelling apps with limited time and little understanding of the dev kit.

    • VR AR MR

      Wikipedia are for dummies where any common person / group can twist and edit it for their own purposes, profits.
      And
      talking of AR and MR, in simple words AR is basic digital overlay (also
      3d) mostly with Maps, Guides, Infos etc And MR is the Interactive &
      customizable 3d characters / environments. The Microsoft using
      Holograms and MagicLeap using Lightfields to achieve the amazing Mixed
      Reality tech!

      • brandon9271

        Your definition of AR sounds like a simple HUD. I haven’t heard too many people speak of AR in such limited terms

        • yes, people need to see what hololens is capable of… See full reviews on Choozurmobile

  • Zsolt Mihályfi

    Either @Joey1058:disqus is right and Mark is promobullshitting or he is just super outdated. (which is less likely)

    1. You can still see pixels in the Oculus consumer version while you can not with MS HoloLens (Dev version).

    2. In 2013 we had the first Oculus DK and the resolution was worse than a mobile phone + Durovis Dive headset combo. Plus you were tethered.

    3. Can you please stop Meta (AR leash with no real 3D) promo when we already have untethered HL with MS 1000+ employee working on it plus 1000+ highly qualified developers and companies making apps for it?

  • VR AR MR

    Cool talk! But MR (Mixed Reality) will be the ultimate tech!
    VR will do great in Gaming and Adult
    AR with Maps, GPS, Yelp kinda stuff
    MR takes on EVERYTHING!!
    Mixed Reality (MR) in Business, Engineering, Manufacturing, Automotive, Architecture, Construction, Research, HealthCare, Sports, Military, Training, Branding, Movies N Music, you name it!!!
    MR gonna be tech tsunami! MR developers will just do great!

    • brandon9271

      I think when people say AR they really mean MR or the terms are interchangeable to most people.. :-/

  • VirtualRealityNation

    After giving my teenage sons plenty of time to use and get used to gearVR, oculus, vive, and the Hololens. I am surprised they gravitate towards holo-lens. I thought the field of view would bother them. But what they and most people I have shown it to enjoy is having the 3D graphics and their real world collide. For me, I prefer the Vive, but I think Meta or MS will really be the ones to beat on their second or third generation models. All MS has to do is improve battery life and double or triple their FOV.

    • mm

      I’ve tried all of them and bought a Vive. I’m sorry but seing things in the same room (real life areas) gets boring really fast after the cool factor wears off.

  • yag

    5+ years doesn’t seem too unrealistic to me, if we talk about decent and affordable AR devices… Also combining large FOV AND really opaque 3D objects seems to be a challenge yet to solve…

  • Mike White

    Hilarious – Zuckerberg thinks the world will just believe he knows everything. Video Games are the only practical application of VR, and they’re a fraction of the device market. PCs are becoming phones, and AR (MR) the interface.
    Unfortunately FB just put over $2bil into a trend rather than a game changer (so of course he wants to keep public traders from realizing the mistake, or FBs stock will decline). Nothing wrong with making video games better, but future tech isn’t just games, it’s more: entertainment, communication & interface. New things.
    Zuck knows this but he thinks the world will wait until after his VR investment pans out. I differ: i believe the world wants experiences that bring fantasy & entertainment into reality where it can be shared, more than insular ones that remove them from people – and that’s MR.

    • tim

      totally agree dude – I just got my rift and 3604k camera but realise that AG VR and wireless is essential , I was watching a ‘fist full of travellers cheques’ in an empty VR cinema and it just doesn’t work , to claustrophobic and insular but the CGI was amazing in like the oculus dreamdeck demo if that was wireless and multi sensors you can set up a holodeck in 10 by 10 – with 20-20 !!!

    • Ben

      have you researched any directions VR is going outside of gaming? it is a huge market and there is a lot of research covering everything from entertainment to its use in medicine…

      • Mike White

        with respect – I have, and in my opinion, MR is way ahead of VR in terms of its mass appeal. Wherever VR applies, MR applies more practically, except in the context of insular experiences where the user sits stationary attached to a computer (as with video games, and possibly architectural/real estate applications.) For the record I love Facebook, believe in it tremendously and believe it was and is still a game changer itself – my comment was not meant as a slight against Zuckerberg, the man’s a genius obviously. More against the PR intentions behind his statement. The next 2 years will prove everything imo.

  • NahNood

    Cool, Omni-Tools in our future!