Facebook has integrated augmented reality (AR) features into its Messenger app's video chats through wacky games to help users have more fun or break the ice with newly added friends.
"For the moments when we can’t be together IRL, Messenger video chat helps you connect in real-time with the people you care about most. We’re excited to make connecting with your friends in video chat even more fun – and competitive! – with multiplayer video chat AR games," says
Messenger product manager Nora Micheva.
The first two games introduced include: Don’t Smile where players have a stare-down to see who smiles first and Asteroids Attack where players bob their heads about to navigate a virtual space ship.
The games can be played with up to six people at a time.
Micheva says Facebook will roll out more games soon, including Beach Bump where players have to pass a beach ball back and forth and a cat matching game Kitten Kraze.
To start a game, open an existing conversation or find a person or group to chat with and then tap the video icon on the upper right corner of the screen.
To initiate the game, tap the star button and select the game you want to play, then the person or group in the video chat will get a notification indicating the game is starting.
"We hope this new experience – made possible by AR Studio – will help you create fun memories with the people you care about most, even when you can’t be together," she says.
AR Studio is Facebook's suite of creativity tools that lets developers use trackers data, and animation to create interactive, shareable effects that respond to people and objects in their surroundings.
Facebook says Messenger's adoption is increasingly steady, recording nearly 17 billion video chats last year, twice as many as the year before.