On Tuesday, April 18th, Facebook launched its 2017 edition of the highly anticipated Developer Conference in San José, otherwise known as F8. The event is named after the 8-hour hackathons the Social Network famously popularized. Two days of major announcements, keynotes, testimonials, demos, followed by millions across the world, and attended by over 4,000 developers.
“We have a lot more to do here,” emphasized Mark Zuckerberg. Besides showcasing new Facebook and Messenger features, AR and VR wizardries, as well as 100,000 bots to date, it’s really the second chapter of Facebook’s 10-year roadmap that Mark Zuckerberg outlined in his opening keynote. The terms of which were laid out by David Marcus, VP Messaging Products, and the visionary scope truly revealed by Building 8’s Head of Innovation Regina Dugan.
Facebook is betting big on augmented reality (AR) with the live launch of its beta camera platform that is open to developers and supported by three technological building blocks: SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), 3D effects and object recognition. While claiming to start “basic”, Facebook is giving its users a vast array of built-in tools through the Frames and AR studios. It’s surely no coincidence that SnapChat released its latest update featuring 3D World Lenses to coincide with this year’s F8. But from Facebook’s tentacular sprawl, positioned as building community and sharing, one can glean Mark Zuckerberg’s ambition to leave Snap and Google in the dust.
VR is better with friends…Based on the premise that users will more likely share what’s cool, fun and interesting, the first VR presence app has made its way into Facebook and is already available in the Oculus Store (provided you’ve acquired the Rift with touch controllers for a whopping $600). The objective? To allow you, or rather your 3D customized avatar that’s based on your profile, to hang out with your friends in a virtual place where you can engage with all sorts of social features – games, selfies, chat, video – without ever having to write a line of code.
Messenger, registering a 20% growth in a year – 1.2 billion users, 2 billion messages a month and over 100,000 bots, has introduced updates that aim to make the platform simpler and more fun.
Besides enriched gaming experiences, Facebook’s messaging platform introduced the search tool “Discovery” to help you connect with the interactive services you’re looking for: your bank, your favorite store, a dating site, a travel agency… without having to install bulky and potentially expensive apps.
New parametric QR codes have been introduced allowing brands to generate multiple codes each activating different features for a single bot. Brands will be able to see which codes are most frequently scanned, while users can connect from anywhere offline to a bot directly in Messenger.
Chat Extensions let brands join group conversations and users can invoke interactive social features (stickers, gifs, music, stories, group orders, collaborative documents, games…) within their discussions. Spotify made its notable entry among the third-parties mentioned, and Apple Music is also scheduled to join the platform…
With all these incentives to make businesses better at using Messenger, and users better at finding businesses through Messenger, there can be no longer any doubt regarding the platform’s unabashed resolve to dethrone WeChat as leading multi-transitional OS with integrated services.
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Last year, Facebook and Messenger set the wheels in motion. In the 371 days that have since gone by, the Social Network and its Messaging platform have tried, tested and perfected their pilot versions of bots, VR, AR, and machine vision. This year they’re delivering the tools to industrialize these technologies. “Last year was about laying the foundations, learning a lot, iterating and trying new things. This year, it’s about scale,” announces David Marcus. Messenger will reach the next level with products developed by its global community that are backed by Facebook’s huge apparatus, he stressed, thus confirming Mark Zuckerberg’s intent to put “state of the art technology in everyone’s pocket“.
To such an extent that after barely a year’s existence, Facebook’s super secretive R&D lab known as “Building 8” presented its ongoing research on brain-to-computer interface, opening our imaginations to the possibility of mind reading and our thoughts typing themselves telepathically into existence. All of which serves the “community building” purpose of pulling our faces and fingers out of our iPhones in order to look at the person sitting in front of us, or so argued Regina Dugan.
So we might as well be clear. At the F8’s outset, and underlying the two-day roll-out of announcements, is Facebook’s uninhibited ambition to open itself massively to partners and developers, even rogue ones, in order to scale up its technologies and connectivity fast and establish itself as the primary port of entry onto the web for brands and users worldwide.
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