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Facebook wants people to make more realistic AR experiences

At its F8 developer fest, the social network announces a new version of its AR Studio and says it's opening the software up to Instagram and Messenger.

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Facebook announced a new version of AR Studio, for creating augmented reality content. 

Facebook

Facebook wants artists and creators who may lack technical backgrounds to be able to make better augmented reality content.

So on Tuesday, the social network unveiled a new version of AR Studio, a software that lets people build experiences that overlay digital graphics on top of what you see through your phone's camera lens. Part of the update is a partnership with Sketchfab, which makes ready-to-use 3D, AR and virtual reality animation. That means people can sift through Sketchfab's library and add their animations in apps.  

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Facebook announced the new features during the company's F8 developer conference in San Jose, California.

Before, people could only use AR Studio to build stuff for Facebook. But the company said the tool will now work with its other apps, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, though it's in closed beta. It will also work "soon" with Facebook Lite, a version of Facebook that uses less data than the regular version.

The new version of AR Studio is also designed to make it easier for people to create more complicated AR experiences. One new tool lets people tie their content to certain real-world locations, so the AR experience becomes available once you're physically in that spot. Another tool lets creators track movements of people in the frame of the camera, so the animation can be tied to their motion.

Facebook has been making big bets in augmented reality, one of Silicon Valley's biggest obsessions. The company introduced the first version of AR Studio at F8 last year, along with Facebook Camera, a platform for third-party developers to make AR games and apps for Facebook's platform. 

Snapchat popularized the way most consumers today use AR, with photo and video filters that can give you a digital flower crown or puppy ears. Instagram followed suit with its own AR filters.

Google and Apple, meanwhile, have been trying to make it easier for developers to build AR apps for their phones. Google offers software tools called ARCore for making Android apps. Apple's version for iPhones is called ARKit. Also, CNET reported last week that Apple is working on a combination virtual reality and augmented reality headset slated for 2020.

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