In one room, Kelly Zhou, Facebook’s product manager for augmented-reality experiences, and Nate Salciccioli, creative director for augmented reality and virtual reality at Facebook, had a lip-sync showdown over Portal TV. Salciccioli was video-calling from Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., while Zhou was in New York.
“We know that a lot of times when you’re connecting with people, it’s not just about conversations you have,” Zhou says, “but also the experiences and activities you do together, which is what really sparked this [app].”
Zhou demonstrated how Mic Drop works, flipping through the 40 pop songs that are available in the catalog. (more songs will be available in the future, Zhou says.) There’s Brittney Spears, ’N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Lorde, Wham, John Legend, Justin Bieber and The Eurythmics, among others. Zhou chooses ’N Sync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye.” Then comes the augmented reality portion, where there are a variety of filters that transform the performer’s face and hair into an approximation of one of the artists on Mic Drop. “You’re able to do fun, silly activities around music,” Zhou says.
It looks silly.
On the screen, the performer is festooned in a virtual rock outfit and a digital crowd is roaring. In the real world, the acoustics are not like a rock stadium, there are no screaming fans; just the people on the call in their living rooms. The two participants can send positive energy across the screens by sharing a thumbs up, fire or heart emoji. There is no option for thumbs down. “We’re about positivity,” Zhou says, as she sends a flurry of fire emojis at Salciccioli, during his rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
The crowd cheers louder with more emojis.
People can send a GIF recap of their performances to friends on Messenger. Mic Drop could come to mobile platforms outside Portal, Zhou says.
Facebook has already developed similar lip-syncing services into the social network, where users can live-stream songs in videos. Last year, Facebook released a standalone app called Lasso, widely viewed as a TikTok clone, for users to create 15-second videos with a pop soundtrack.