Beginning now, a handful of brands will be able to integrate AR effects into their automated messaging bots — those automatic replies you get when you, say, ask CNN on Messenger what the news is.
The new AR abilities are similar to Snapchat’s recently-launched “shoppable” lenses: brands and businesses can create AR experiences meant to get you to buy stuff. But in Messenger’s case, the feature isn’t tied to animated face filters.
So while Sephora’s bot could direct a potential customer to virtually try on different types of makeup, Nike could show off how a new shoe looks from any angle, and Kia could make a virtual car appear in your driveway.
The idea, according to Facebook, is to integrate these types of experiences into the types of conversations already happening via Messenger bots. So a company won’t be able to message you to try out its new AR feature unless you’ve previously interacted on Messenger or you click on an ad from one of the participating brands from your News Feed.
AR features are limited to a handful of companies for now — including Kia, Nike, Sephora, and Asus — but Facebook plans to eventually make it available more widely. No word yet on specific timing.
Messenger is just the latest platform to start experimenting with branded augmented reality. Instagram also just opened up its AR effects to third-parties, and Snapchat has recently gone all-in on it, too.
Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook’s Messenger’s head of product, says that augmented reality is the next natural step for advertising as commerce moves away from brick-and-mortar stores.
“If in the world before, brands were all into, ‘Let’s buy ads to get people to our stores,’ in today’s world it’s let’s get ads to get people to into that augmented reality where they can experience our product in the closest way to the physical world possible,” he says.
In addition to augmented reality, Messenger is also introducing a new translation feature for its built-in (and now fully automated) assistant, M. Powered by the same tech that runs translations in News Feed, the feature will eventually be able to offer up real-time translations when you’re chatting with someone who speaks another language.
Though the feature will be much more limited for now. Facebook says M’s translating powers will roll out first to conversations that originate in Marketplace, and only to English and Spanish speakers in the U.S.