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This article was contributed by Maher Saba, VP of remote presence at Meta.

For many, video calls have become a familiar, if not constant, part of our daily work and personal lives. Whether it’s a virtual happy hour with friends from around the country or a family check-in, there’s a good chance those interactions are happening over a video call. Early in the pandemic when we became more reliant on video calling to power our social interactions, we recognized the opportunity to re-imagine the experience and improve it, changing the way people use video calls across a variety of contexts. 

At Meta, we believe video calling can and should be more personal, more connected, and more human. One of the ways we’re approaching this is with the introduction of Group Effects: Interactive, real-time augmented reality (AR) effects that invite people to share moments together through collaborative experiences. To activate an AR effect on one screen, transform, and interact that effect between screens and people on a video call, is a new AR experience that creates a shared connection – the feeling we get when we’re actually in the same room with other people, seeing something unfold before our eyes.

Unlike average AR effects of the past that have largely been one-way broadcasting, these new interactive, real-time effects for video calling allow people to truly connect. They can even be the reason to get on a video call — to play, laugh, or celebrate together and form a new bonding experience for the people involved.

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From creators looking to connect with fans in more intimate and authentic ways to everyday people who want to feel closer to those they communicate with in real-time, AR experiences are reinventing video calling – breaking people out of “boxes” on a screen to enable more dynamic experiences. Here are some ways innovative, interactive, real-time AR effects are redefining the video calling space.

Helping creators engage and strengthen connections

For creators looking to not only build an audience but also form meaningful connections, AR can open up a whole world of possibilities. Influencers, developers, public figures and brands can all benefit from AR to feel closer when communicating on video calls.

While Stories on social media platforms can generate millions of impressions for creators, they are asynchronous and one-way: typically a single person expressing themself, which can limit the opportunity for meaningful connection. With interactive and instant AR, however, experiences become more intimate. While these are meant for smaller groups, they inherently inspire more engaged, personal connection, with people participating together through play, bite-sized experiences and conversation starters in real time. 

This is an exciting, creative blank canvas for brands and creators alike — a compelling new medium to explore, experiment and define. Opening up a new path for creators to share work with fans and help bridge gaps, this will make establishing meaningful connections with audiences easier to accomplish. And brands are already getting creative: Ellen DeGeneres’ new take on the massively successful mobile charades game, Heads Up!, in which players on a video call try to guess the word on a card on another player’s forehead before they run out of time, or Cosmopolitan’s Magazine’s custom AR effect to help people celebrate New Year’s virtually with champagne and chicken nuggets.

Increasing emotional connection 

The applications of AR stretch far and wide and at the center of all possibilities is increasing emotional connections.

Whether it’s a first date over video call or a family game night, AR can transform those experiences into something new and deeply meaningful. It can also help break down barriers in social anxiety, creating deeper emotional connections to help make users feel more comfortable and boost confidence. Through dynamic, reactive AR experiences, we can redefine how we connect and communicate with others. 

Motivating people to connect through interactive AR

It’s still early days, but we believe using AR in this context will both help people feel more comfortable turning on their cameras and encourage them to connect while making interactive layers a new normal. In the not-so-distant future, AR will not just be a feature of video calls, it will be a reason people are making video calls in the first place.

As we look to this new frontier in AR, taking us beyond asynchronous short-video capture to real-time interactions that enhance the way people connect in a personal way, we’re excited to see what else lies ahead, like a use case for innovative products like AR glasses.

Video calling has become an integral part of our lives, but it often leaves us wishing for more of the connection we get when we spend quality time with people in the same physical location. Real-time AR can help bridge that gap, and while nothing can replace getting together in person, we can help people feel close, making it as connective of an experience as possible.

Maher Saba is VP of Remote Presence at Meta.

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