This week, Facebook’s Annual Developer Conference took place with thousands in attendance in the expo centre in San Francisco and also watching around the world via Facebook Live. F8 2016 was yet another chance to hear the latest from the prolific tech giant. This year, Mark Zuckerberg and co had a whole range of announcements to make. With a two day event in which to showcase the newest tools and products, there’s plenty to talk about already!
Zuckerberg began the opening keynote with a look at Facebook’s 10 Year Roadmap. From this it is easy to see where Facebook is heading, with their eyes set on taking increased worldwide connectivity, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to the wider world. Bringing people together has been part of Facebook’s mantra since the beginning, so it’s no surprise to see that as an underlying theme to F8 2016. The future that Facebook is envisioning has a lot of implications for both users and developers of apps.
A future filled with Bots
The big announcement from the first day of F8 2016 comes in the form of Messenger Bots. Bots in Messenger have been rumoured for a while, and now Facebook have finally shed some light on just what they will mean for users and businesses. For businesses, they now have the opportunity to deliver an entirely new form of customer service – creating a direct line of communication between the customer and the company. The potential of Messenger Bots goes well beyond just customer service. News channels could share new stories, weather forecasts could be readily provided, and retailers could send discount codes offers to customers. The question is whether users want to be contacted this way.
Traditionally, Messenger has been a personal space, and since being separated from Facebook in 2014, it has become even more so by removing the usual clutter from Facebook and leaving just the conversations between friends. Whether users will be willing to have Messenger Bots intrude on their private space is something which remains to be seen. As the Messenger Platform is open to developers to make bots of their own, the risk is there for messages from bots become the equivalent of spam.
However, bots appear to be the future, Microsoft Chief Executive, Satya Nadella, last month declared “bots are the new apps”. Messenger Bots, gives Facebook the chance to get a massive lead on the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google, which have all shown interest in getting involved in artificial intelligence.
An augmented virtual reality
There were plenty of other interesting things to talk about from F8 2016. Live video streaming as a part of Facebook Live is receiving a major boost to take on rival Periscope, with the videos becoming a prominent part of your news feed. A dedicated hub for Facebook Live gives companies a new platform to get their content across to an even wider audience. Broadcasters will be able to stream live video through Facebook, whether its with their smartphone or their flying robot drone. We could see audiences larger than those for TV shows, tuning in to see their favourite celebrities.
Two months ago at the Mobile World Congress, virtual reality was the big trend with the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear all putting their offerings on display. Hype for VR has persisted. While many early adopters of Oculus are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of their headsets, poster-boy Mark Zuckerberg instead decided to go into detail on how augmented reality will fit into their 10 year plan.
Augmented reality (AR) has been around for a while, with Google experimenting with the possibilities of Google Glass. AR is where digital objects appear as though they are a part of the world around you, though in many cases this was fairly static in its use and had little interactivity. The likes of Microsoft HoloLens has demonstrated the capabilities of a mixed virtual-augmented reality, and Facebook AR could be the next step in creating an interactive experience which blends information from your Facebook into the real world.
There’s still plenty more to come from the second day of F8 2016. If the first day is any indication, then we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of how Facebook is going to connect us all in a world built on bots and live streams, with augmented and virtual reality altering what we can and can’t see. It’s certainly a frightening prospect; just don’t let the bots know that.