In case you haven’t been following along with the tech news last week, April 18th & 19th, 2017 were all about Facebook’s F8 conference. What is F8? It’s Facebook’s annual global developer conference. This year, the conference was held at the McEnery Convention Centre, in San Jose, California. The conference hosts an opportunity for developers and businesses, alike, to come together and peek at what sorts of technology lies in wait for the coming year. It also allows Facebook to showcase its newest products and innovations. This year, one of the biggest tech giants in the space took on VR and AR by introducing React Fiber, React VR, and the Camera Effects platform.

React Fiber

Facebook announced a complete rewrite of React, its wildly popular JavaScript library used for building native mobile apps. For those who were paying attention, Facebook had begun doling out vague details about this as early as last year. However, it wasn’t until F8 this year that they made the official announcement. They’re calling it React Fiber. However, fear not; the new React Fiber platform is completely backward compatible, so all your previous React-based native apps won’t have to be re-worked to be supported. The whole concept behind React Fiber was to make the platform as responsive as possible. Facebook engineer and React core team member, Ben Alpert, told TechCrunch in an interview “When we develop React, we’re always looking to see how we can help developers build high-quality apps quicker. We want to make it easier to make apps that perform very well and make them responsive.” So what does this mean for developers? Some of the highlighted features of the new platform are built-in primitives for scheduling, and incremental rendering; meaning now you can split rendering work into “chunks” and spread it out over multiple frames. Wondering what rendering with React looks like versus rendering with Fiber? Check it out here! You can also expect upgraded sustainability in areas such as animations, layout, and gestures. Lastly, you’ll be able to pause, abort, and reuse work as new updates are doled out.

React VR

Now, this is where things get interesting. Hot on the heels of this news was Facebook’s announcement of React VR. Basically, React VR provides any developer with an understanding of JavaScript the tools they need in order to build and deploy VR experiences. As an agency, we pride ourselves on having done thorough poking into what works and doesn’t work in VR. Having a tool like this means that we can do even more in terms of cutting-edge website and mobile design. Andrew Imm, a software engineer at Facebook, wrote, “To maximize your potential audience, sites built in React VR are also accessible on smartphones and PC’s.” This is a massive door that Facebook is opening for virtual reality to become even more mainstream. It also provides the opportunity for developers to dive in and start testing their hand at VR development. React VR also promises to deliver the ability to “create 3D scenes, build audio & visual capabilities, as well as create complete 360-degree content.” Game developers, however, please take note; the focus isn’t yet on making complex virtual reality games within React VR. The idea is more to allow for the natural melding of 360 content to 2D interfaces, text, and images. Moreover, since VR apps need to be rendered at 60 FPS, minimum, the enhanced React rendering capabilities of Fiber make these two announcements a perfect match.

Camera Effects

When Facebook first launched their Stories feature, they received more than a fair amount of criticism for their flagrant copying of Snapchat. What nobody except Mark Zuckerberg and a team at Facebook knew was that they were laying the groundwork for a much, much bigger project; the Camera Effects platform. The platform is simply this: create fun digital effects for the Facebook in-app camera, be it a simple photo frame or a more complex and stunning augmented reality experience. And whereas Snapchat broke ties in 2015 and no longer accepts work from outside developers, Facebook is actively encouraging any and all developers to develop content for this new project. Zuckerberg stated, “the first augmented reality platform that becomes mainstream isn’ going to be glasses, it’s going to be cameras.” TechCrunch is even going so far as to claim that the AR gold rush is currently afoot. Because there are few noteworthy augmented reality startups as of yet, “whoever establishes themselves as capable of commanding people’s attention with this new medium will have businesses throwing money at them to build branded AR experiences.” For now, however, the platform is solely for user enjoyment. Facebook wants to focus on making the new platform as enjoyable an experience as possible before they invite businesses to participate with monetized content.

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