SINGAPORE: Local companies working on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) content have welcomed Facebook’s decision to launch its developer community programme - Developer Circles - in Singapore.
They said the programme would allow them early access to developer tools and build a relationship with one of the main development platforms for AR and VR content.
Facebook said in its press release on Monday (Oct 22) that Developer Circles, which will be launched in November, will provide a programme for developers to “connect, collaborate and encourage community learning and coding through local meet-ups and online groups”.
Mr Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of Developer Platforms and Programs at Facebook, who was in town for the announcement, told Channel NewsAsia that this is the first time the social media giant is bringing both the Developer Circles and Startup Station programmes to a developed market like Singapore.
Announced earlier in October, Startup Station Singapore is a six-month programme by Facebook and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) which supports data-driven start-ups in growing their businesses in “new and cutting-edge ways, while continuing to keep peoples’ trust, transparency and control over their data at the core”. It is scheduled to start next February.
The social media giant said it sees “lots of value” to run both programmes at the same time as start-ups could recruit talented developers into its ranks after these sessions, while fresh graduates can pick up skills not necessarily taught in schools and learn what recruiting companies are looking for.
The teaching of tech skills at Developer Circles will be led by the community, Mr Papamiltiadis explained, with a likely focus on AR, VR and artificial intelligence.
“Developers may not have knowledge (of things like AR and VR) from what they learn in university necessarily, or even through their previous work experiences,” the executive said, adding even a great computer science graduate, for example, may not be equipped for AR and VR development initially.
Asked how much resources Facebook is pouring in to set up Developer Circles, Mr Papamiltiadis said it would take care of the costs of these meetups as well as have technical support and resources on hand for developers and start-ups to tap on.
“Instead of thinking about the dollar figure for investment, a better way of thinking about this is the dollar figure generated” for every start-up that makes it in the global market, or supporting the equipping of individual developers, the executive said.
CONTENT CREATORS WELCOME MOVE
One of the local companies invited to the Facebook event on Monday was Warrior9 VR.
CEO Ashima Thomas told Channel NewsAsia that she had been working on this business on the side since 2015, but formally incorporated it only in January this year as there appeared to be a "shift" in terms of how people are talking about AR and VR.
Ms Thomas said there is more interest in incorporating such technologies into the workplace, and they are "slowly inching" into mainstream consciousness through introduction of hardware by Facebook’s Oculus unit or Google’s Cardboard, she added.
Warrior9 VR develops AR and VR content - both for its own distribution and for clients. One example the CEO cited was a 10-part science fiction show called The Phoenix set in VR. The pilot episode premiered at the Cannes film festival last year.
“As storytellers, we’re always looking at how people are consuming content,” Ms Thomas said, adding that with new tools Facebook is introducing and tracking, it can study if “people are going to care” if stories were told in one way or another.
Another company working in this space is MeshMinds, an organisation looking to connect artists with socially responsible companies to work on immersive artwork and experiences focused on the sustainable development of people and the planet.
One such project, Atypical Singapore, was commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board, said Mr Dean Reinhard, chief technology whisperer at MeshMinds. The company worked with seven artists to develop their artwork into AR so that these can be used to showcase Singapore during overseas promotion tours.
Mr Reinhard told Channel NewsAsia that by working with Facebook, it was able to get early access to tools that allowed better user experience when viewing the artists’ works in AR. It is also able to better understand how people are interacting with the artworks through the analytics baked into the AR and VR tools, added his colleague Kay Vasey.
Such insights into how people engage with AR and VR content will be “absolutely key” for creatives in the digital arena, Ms Vasey said.