The annual Facebook F8 developer’s conference is over, which makes this the right time to ponder over all the future plans that the company unveiled at the event. Also, needless to say, much of it has been along expected lines what with renewed focus being accorded to the Messenger app along with chatbots and video. Then there were a few surprises packed in as well though let’s start with the known bits first.
Messenger and Chatbots:
Facebook has been quite vocal off late about a makeover for its Messenger service that will integrate it with business elements to ensure the app emerges as a one-stop location for not only communication but almost everything else conceivable. That includes tasks as diverse as booking a cab, ordering food, shopping online to name just a few. Moreover, the company wishes to achieve that via chatbots which will serve as artificial intelligence powered representatives of companies designed to deal with clients in a friendly conversational manner; and all of that is going to happen from right within the Messenger app itself.
Potential benefits of having chatbots in place are many as these allow for real-time conversation taking place which otherwise would have been in a time-lag manner via email messages and such. Further, users will also be saved from having to download the respective company apps as all of their needs are set to be fulfilled from within the messenger platform itself.
Towards that, Facebook also launched the Wit.ai Bot Engine that is designed to enable companies to build their own bots easily. Also, the bots so built will need to be fed with just a few sample conversations post which, it will pick up on its own thanks to AI and machine learning techniques. While does sound simple enough though let’s hope developers will be wary of Microsoft’s recent experience with its Tay chatbot.
Surround 360 VR Camera:
Facebook’s tryst with virtual reality has been limited to the launch of the Oculus Rift, and the new Surround VR camera can be considered to be the follow-up to that. The camera itself is a state-of-the-art device that comes with 17 individual cameras that are designed for shooting 8K videos at 60 frames per second.
If that sounds overwhelming, well it sure is though the best thing about the setup is that the Surround camera is entirely open source. Facebook said the entire reference design along with the hardware setup would be made available on GitHub later this summer. That also applies to the software Facebook has developed to stitch together the various footage captured by the individual cameras to form a single stream of VR video content.
Obviously, the idea here is to spur the development of such cameras to suit various requirements while the video thus created can be watched on various VR devices such as the Samsung Gear VR.
Facebook also announced the wider availability of its Instant Articles to all publishers anywhere in the world. The project so far has had a limited scope while it was still fine-tuned. Obviously, we are passed all that and the social networking giant claimed to have received an overwhelming response to Instant Articles with over 1,000 publishers being on board.
Also, apart from the faster page load times that Instant Articles accounts for, another inherent benefit with the articles is the social aspect of it as users get to share it within their social circles right away.
The company’s new found love for live video streaming continues unabated, and efforts are underway to ensure users find it easy to both upload new videos and discover pre-loaded ones. That shows in the launch of the new Live tab that serves as the place to be for video streaming, sharing and such.
Facebook also announced the launch of the Live API during its F8 conference that allows developers to integrate Facebook Live right into their apps, thereby making live video streaming all the more simple. The company announced drone maker DJI as the launch partner of its Live API project.
Facebook also showed off the entire thing by showing off a DJI Phantom drone embedded with Facebook Live streamed live a video to Facebook.
Facebook also announced the launch of what it terms as the Account Kit that envisions logging in to apps and such using just the phone number. That is a nice touch as it would save the user from typing the username and password which can be quite cumbersome. None of that once developers start integrating the Account Kit into their applications.
Facebook satellite to beam the Internet:
Facebook’s ambition to connect individuals is already well known though the company is keen to take things to the next higher level. That includes launching a satellite of its own that would be beaming down the internet to large swathes of the earth. It is relying on the 5-ton AMOS-6 satellite that has been built by Israel Aerospace Industries for $200 million. As of now, it is the sub-Saharan region that the company is taking aim at though such project targeting other regions can’t be ruled out either. The present satellite is scheduled to blast off later this year.
Meanwhile, as a further push to its Free Basic program, Facebook also announced the launch of the Free Basics simulator which will allow developers to monitor how their apps are performing on the Free Basics platform. Facebook said the platform has now brought 25 million across the word within the ambit of internet services.
Earlier, the company had envisioned using several high-speed drones crisscrossing the earth’s stratosphere to beam down the Internet. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he plans to reach out to the next 5 billion via his free Internet program that has been termed Free Basics.
Save to Facebook:
Another feature launched is ‘Save to Facebook’ which allows users to save sites or articles to their Facebook account for viewing later.
Quote to Facebook:
Also yet another new feature launched is the ‘Quote to Facebook’ that negates the need to copy and paste to Facebook manually. Instead, users will just have to highlight the text and press ‘Share Quote’ with Facebook doing the rest. That includes creating a post containing the quote along with the link to the article from where the quote has been sourced.
Profile videos by third party apps:
Facebook is now allowing third-party video apps to create and upload profile videos. Vine and Boomerang are among the launch partners that Facebook announced at the event though more are likely to join in in due course. Facebook is making available what it calls as the ‘profile expression kit’ to developers for integration into their video apps for shooting profile videos.
Last but not the least is Facebook’s planned venture into Augmented Reality space. However, the company had little to show off here except what seems to be a regular spectacle which is what the company claims will be enough to view AR stuff.
“In the future, you’ll be able to snap your fingers and pull out a photo and make it as big as you want, and with your AR glasses you’ll be able to show it to people, and they’ll be able to see it,” said Mark Zuckerberg at the conference.
However, it still is a work in progress thing and nothing substantial is expected out of it in say a decade’s time.