Facebook kicked off its annual F8 developer conference earlier this week, and augmented reality was the big story. The social network detailed plans to take the camera, now a key staple of every smartphone, and move it to the center of the social networking experience. Suddenly, Snap Inc.’s description of itself as a “camera company” is making a lot more sense. Too bad it was the company’s top competitor that had to explain it to everyone.

Facebook stock f8

Facebook moves the camera front and center

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said repeatedly that he sees video as the next big thing after mobile, and during the F8 conference this week, he told attendees that he wants to replace the keyboard as the main communication device with the camera. He sees a future in which most stories are told and shared using videos and photos rather than text and described Facebook’s camera-related offerings as “the first mainstream augmented reality platform.”

Facebook also launched its AR Studio developer platform, and with that launch, Wells Fargo analyst Peter Stabler said in a note dated April 19 that he now expects the company’s augmented reality offerings to suddenly accelerate. He also noted the similarities between what Facebook is doing with AR and what Snapchat parent Snap is trying to do.

Also this week, Snap revealed new 3D lenses, and Stabler sees plenty of ways marketers could monetize augmented reality offerings such as those offered by Snap and Facebook.

What’s new with Facebook?

Starting right away, Facebook users could access face masks, art frames and some other effects, but the social network expects many more offerings to spring up as developers create new things using its suite of tools. The company’s AR gaming platform is expected to launch later this year.

Jefferies analyst Brian Fitzgerald sees three main use cases for augmented reality, which are showing information or notifications, adding digital objects to an image or enhancing images in various ways, like by adding a filter to a photo or video. His team was able to try out Facebook Spaces, the company’s new “social experience” for its Oculus Rift headset and Touch.

Using the app, people can create realistic looking avatars for use inside virtual reality that can help show emotion or make the user experience seem more immersive. Users can draw objects in 3D or share photos or images with others. They can also make Messenger calls to share a window into their virtual word with other people.

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