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Facebook F8 Conference Is Not The F8 ‘Safe Mode’ We Know

21st Century Wire says…

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More on this report from Wired…

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Liat Clark
Wired

Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, is where the firm reveals to the world what is is working on in both the short and long term. This year’s event has been no different.

Mark Zuckerberg has announced a series of new features covering augmented reality, AI bots, and more far-fetched plans to close the gap between humans and machines. In particular, he wants Facebook users to be able to “type with their brains and hear with their skin.”

Possibly the most significant, immediate announcement from Zuckerberg was the launch of a new closed beta platform for AR features to compete with Snapchat, alongside Messenger features designed to encourage users to make the most of bots built by third parties.

Here are the highlights from Facebook’s F8 conference:

TYPING WITH YOUR BRAIN

Perhaps the most ambitious project Facebook has ever announced, Zuckerberg has said his firm is working on the development of what’s been dubbed Building 8. Regina Dugan, who previously headed up Darpa, told the F8 audience the project is focusing on two areas: typing with your brain and hearing through your skin.

Over the next two years, we will be building systems that demonstrate the capability to type at 100 [words per minute] by decoding neural activity devoted to speech,” Dugan wrote in a Facebook post. She said the aim is to turn thoughts into words on a screen. The system Facebook is building will be non-invasive and Dugan says it could “become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders“.

The other approach Facebook is taking is to turn the two square metres of skin on the human body into a listening device. The firm has already demonstrated an “artificial cochlea” that can hear and is now working on using the sensors in the skin to interpret what is being said.

AUGMENTED REALITY PLATFORM

The AR ‘camera effects platform’ will allow developers to build tools for Snapchat-style effects and masks. “We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform,” Zuckerberg said. Additional options to personalise in the app, from animated 3D effects and the introduction of Giphy GIFs (possible through its newly launched AR Studio, and also available in live video and Messenger chat) to mapping, will follow as the development stage matures, Zuckerberg added. The AR Studio forms a large part of Facebook’s future growth and will be the hub that helps bring augmented reality gaming to the social network. It helps developers with key aspects of the groundwork, such as real-time face tracking.

MESSENGER BOTS

One year on from the Messenger platform being released to developers, VP of Messenger David Marcus additionally announced the features of version 2.0, from public QR codes that link to bots, to group chats that incorporate these bots.

Previous bots have been built to help Messenger users shop, order takeaways, and send money. Within this latest announcement, Facebook’s real desire for the ‘app for everything’ becomes clear: to make its bot network go viral. Virality is the peak of content marketing, and Facebook wants the same success for the bots on its network.

Talking about one of the new features – Chat Extensions – which allows group chats to have a bot added directly to the conversation, Marcus said: “We think this will enable people to virally share bots.” The example he gave was of a person wanting to share a new song they love, and adding something like the Spotify bot to the group chat to enhance that conversation. “With Chat Extensions, we enable multiple people to chat with the same business at the same time.”

Other features are squarely designed at attracting new users. From today, a ‘discover’ tab will appear on the right-hand side of the home screen and, when selected, will show a list of recently used bots, trending ‘experiences’ and a search field – much like the facilities of the search bar in the normal Facebook mobile app. Developers can apply to Facebook to have their bot included in this section, so they will not solely be prioritised on relevance and usefulness but on whether or not they have applied to the service and been successful.

Businesses are also now being invited to generate multiple QR codes for their bots so they can track exactly where they are being scanned. Facebook suggests this could be done down to the individual table level at restaurants. For customers, QR codes could link to bots that help them get more information while attending a sports or music event, Marcus suggests.

Bots are set to become a bigger part of the Messenger gaming experience too, to make it more social, and friends can be invited to play by tapping on the Games tab on the app home screen, a feature now being rolled more widely rolled out…

Continue this report at Wired

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