Facebook has once again proven to be the social network that just won’t quit, with a new slate of reactive, personalised and somewhat urgent technologies showcased at its annual F8 conference in San Francisco. Facebook introduced us to new developer tech, in-app integration's and open sourced technologies, all of which go hand-in-hand with huge announcements regarding the future of Messenger, VR and live streaming and content sharing. Facebook is very much focusing on the adaption of current emerging technologies into the app, with the goal of making the world more open and connected.
Have a look at the Top 8 from F8 below.
Chatbots on Messenger
Facebook announced the introduction of smart, human-like chatbots across the Messenger app. These bots are powered by Facebooks Send/Receive API and Wai.ai’s Bot Engine and will be able to deliver content from automated subscriptions like weather and traffic updates, as well as customised communications including receipts and notifications, e-commerce guidance, content and interactive experiences, learnt from and tailored for the individual.
People will be able to discover bots through the implantation of a new search bar at the top of Messenger, which will allow brands and businesses to talk with their audiences directly from the app. With this, Facebook has introduced a new set of policies that will give the user a choice as to which communications they want to receive, with the ability to block and mute conversations with brands.
Facebook has invented, developed and built their own VR camera. In an attempt to get more 360-degree video in the news feed and VR content on Oculus, the ‘Surround 360’ is a 17-lens 3D camera, which interestingly, requires little to no post-production work unlike most VR rigs. Its image quality, durability and portability have been praised by early reviewers. Perhaps turning its back on commercial values, Facebook won’t be selling the camera - and instead will be uploading the hardware designs and video-stitching algorithms on Github. This allows devs, camera manufacturers and anyone else who wants to spend $30,000 on the required parts the ability to build the camera (below).
So what does Facebook get out of this? While a spokesperson stated they have “no ambitions of getting into the camera business”, the goal is “simply to catalyse 360 and VR content production to fill its ad-fuelled social network and the headsets it sells” with content worthy of users’ time.
Facebook’s live-streaming goals are to allow “hundreds of people to experience the exact same moment at the exact same time”. While this idea has already been successfully demonstrated by apps like Periscope and Meerkat, Facebook’s decision to release the Live Video API to developers will mean that media organisations are able to embed Facebook streaming into their broadcasts and enables third party hardware’s, such as Go-Pro, to stream directly to the platform. This will allow publishers to interact instantly with their audiences, while provide audiences with a new social experience without ever leaving Facebook.
Instant Articles + Branded Content
Starting today, all publishers will be able to take advantage of the fast-loading and distraction free view that is Instant Articles. Previously only available to a select few, Facebook again has released the format to developers. Content on the Instant Articles platform will be interactive and immersive, with loading times 10x faster than standard mobile web articles – given they are essentially HTML5 documents using specific tags.
In addition to text publishers can also add slideshows, audios captions, maps and video, images and - of course - support for Facebook likes and comments. This means a higher readership and audiences that are 70% less likely to abandon the article and “an enhanced reading experience for people plus a significant boost for publishers looking to reach their audiences on Facebook.”
Branded content can also be created and uploaded to Facebook, with a tag tool indicating the sponsor of the story. This tool aims to introduce more transparency to brands and businesses and allows them to “better understand how their marketing initiatives are performing across Facebook”, as when notified marketers will have the ability to access post level insights, share and boost the post.
New Save Button
The new save button feature will allow users to save articles, pages and content they view off the app directly to their Facebook feed for future viewing. When relevant, Facebook will also remind users of their saved items – for instance “when a product goes on sale, or if they haven’t read an article yet”.
While not necessarily a Facebook technology, Healthtap is transforming the way health information is created and accessed, and revolutionising the way healthcare is delivered. From the Facebook messenger app, users will anonymously be able to message their health queries and concerns directly to Healthtap, which provides answers from the online database instantly, or from one of 100,000 physicians in the network within 24 hours. The service, which Facebook stresses is intended to be an educational service rather than a replacement for visiting a doctor, is free, however a premium subscription will allow users to video chat with doctors is $99/month.
Oculus and the VR selfie stick
Zuckerburg announced the future of VR is not just in gaming and cinema, but in social too. Facebook, together with Oculus, is experimenting in building native social experiences on the virtual plane. In a demonstration to show the techs social potential, Facebooks CTO Mike Schroepfer and engineer Michael Booth both strapped into Oculus, 30 miles apart. They were able to share the same virtual space and locations by stepping into 360 degree photos, use virtual pens to draw, create and take photos together using a VR selfie stick. While still in an early testing phase, Facebook has used its internal drawing tool and occipital structure sensors to detect depth and texture to recreate the users face so eventually, Facebook users will be able to insert themselves directly into virtual reality.
Automatic Tagging in Videos
Facebooks artificial intelligence systems are being used now for video recognition – the idea being that you will be able to search for people in any of the videos they have shared with you. As a Live Video feature, this will allow indexing of moments automatically so that the exact point in the video can be found again and again by doing a simple name search.