This week Facebook held its annual F8 conference in San Francisco where the company discussed new features and the future of the social network. While some of the announcements detailed things that won’t come to fruition for several years, some new features are already available to both developers and users.
The company had a lot to talk about in two days, with some of it a bit too technical for anyone without a background in programming, but here’s a few of the announcements we found exciting that could very well redirect the future of Facebook.
Sure, the term “chatbot” bring up memories of the AOL Instant Messenger days for people of a certain age, but the term is back now that we have AI that can help us interact with brands. At F8 Facebook announced a new platform for chatbots in Messenger and the availability of several bots. You can now use the Facebook Messenger app on your phone to do things like check the weather with Poncho, read the news from CNN or The Wall Street Journal, or order flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS. As Mark Zuckerberg put it during his presentation, “We think you should be able to message a business like you message a friend.”
The chatbots that are available now are relatively slow, as Gizmodo pointed out, but Facebook seems to think very highly of the tech. There are definitely faster ways to find out about breaking news or check the weather, but there’s room to grow still. With Microsoft’s recent chatbot framework announcement it looks like the tech is here to stay for at least a little while.
2. Surround 360 camera
As the parent company of Oculus, it’s obvious that Facebook would have an interested in virtual reality and 360 video. On stage at F8 the company unveiled its new Facebook Surround 360 system, which it claims makes it easy to shoot and share the 3D-360 video. The system uses 17 cameras to capture the video at 4K, 6K, or 8K, and renders it all without the need for the hand-stitching that many similar systems require. The videos can then be viewed in VR headsets, or in 360 videos through Facebook.
To help make 360 video easier for everyone, Facebook will open source the design of the Facebook Surround 360 and put it all on Github sometime this summer. The components will cost about $30,000, according to The Verge, much less than competing devices such as the upcoming Nokia Ovo.
3. Live stream from any camera
If you follow any brands on Facebook, chances are you’ve seen a few Facebook Live videos pop up in your feed recently. At F8 the company announced tools to let camera makers build Facebook Live support into their cameras. Among the first cameras to take advantage of the new feature is the Livestream Mevo. Drone maker DJI also signed on to build live streaming support into its drones, which could provide for some great aerial streams, or some rather boring ones as tends to be the case with drone videos.
BuzzFeed also signed up as partners for the new Facebook Live tools, so we can potentially look forward to more live streams of people putting rubber bands around watermelons to see how many it takes for them to explode.
4. More Instant Articles
Instant Articles, the articles that load quickly in Facebook mobile apps without sending you to a separate website, will now be available to every publisher that wants them. The feature was previously only available to select publications, but now any publication that wants to should be able to enable the faster articles for their readers. It’s a small thing, but something that those of us who end up reading a lot of articles our friends post to Facebook will definitely enjoy. Anything is better than using the slow in-app browser that feels so much worse than the rest of the app.
5. VR Selfie Stick
During part of its presentation, representatives from Oculus took the stage at f8 to show off how the Rift can be used to virtually tour any location. Using the headset and a controller, the team showed how users can visit London thanks to 3D photo spheres, and virtually take selfies of themselves near Big Ben. The feature won’t be available any time soon, as Oculus still has to get its facial scanning technology right, but the company said it can currently get up to five people into a virtual location at once.