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Facebook F8 conference: Zuckerberg showcases social media VR, AR, AI and more

Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage in San Jose in his first keynote of the 10th edition of the Facebook F8 conference to showcase the world’s first virtual reality social media -- Spaces, augmented reality effects for camera and the company’s progress in the field of artificial intelligence.

tech Updated: Apr 19, 2017 09:28 IST
HT Correspondent
The picture shows Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg delivering his keynote address at the 2016 edition of Facebook’s F8 conference.
The picture shows Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg delivering his keynote address at the 2016 edition of Facebook’s F8 conference.(AFP file photo)

Facebook has been always about connecting with people in a virtual world and Mark Zuckererg late on Monday in the 10th edition of Facebook’s F8 Conference showcased a new fun way of connecting with people -- alternate realities.

Watch Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote here

Alternate realities -- virtual and augmented reality -- was the theme of the day as Zuckerberg headlined the company’s keynote in his signature gray t-shirt and blue jeans, and spent almost 20 minutes outlining Facebook’s new augmented reality platform, a new way for developers to build features into Facebook’s built-in camera that add digital graphics to the real world you see through the lens.

Camera Effects

Zuckerberg showcased some pretty cool but basic effects of Augmented Reality. “Think about how many of the things you use [that] don’t actually need to be physical,” Zuckerberg told Recode in an interview where he outlined his broader AR vision, which includes AR glasses. “A key part of that journey is making an open platform where any developer can create anything they want,” he added.

Watch making of AR effects on camera

Outlining Pokemon GO, Zuckerberg highlighted that users will get games and photo filters on their smartphone camera in order to help them share more or communicate better with more effects.

For example, one can leave messages on the fridge for their spouse, or tag businesses with floating notes and tips written on walls. Also expect better games courtesy a technology called “SLAM” (simultaneous localization and mapping) that lays a 3-D grid over any object in front of the camera (it can incorporate real-world objects in AR) in front of you, turning it into a game board or a simple table.

Live stream Day 2 of the Facebook F8 conference here

Virtual Reality goes social: Game nights and dinner parties everyday

Zuckerberg didn’t stop there but also unveiled a new virtual reality engine for Facebook called Spaces that allows users to interact in a virtual world -- shop together, build stuff, play board and table top games. So long Farmville!

The photo shows Facebook’s Space -- its new VR platform in action. (Screengrab)

Spaces lets users create an avatar, then “meet up” with other users’ avatars in a digital world. It’s an effort to turn VR, which has historically been a solo activity, into a group activity. Users can chat and gesture with their arms, draw pictures or watch a YouTube video. “If we can do a good enough job of having you feel [an actual emotional connection] in VR, then the hardware purchase becomes a no-brainer,” Rachel Franklin, Facebook’s head of social VR, told Recode.

Watch making of Facebook Spaces here.

Facebook Messenger is boss: Music, games and more capable bots

Facebook Messenger is finally moving the WeChat way. David Marcus, the head of Messenger, wants to bloat this app even further by adding in a host of new integrations, many designed to help users interact even more with businesses. Messenger is also launching a dedicated discovery tab and new QR codes that, when scanned, bring users directly into conversation with a bot.

Watch the making of new Messenger tools

Newer integrations into Messenger will also bring games and music into the platform so users can share their latest music discovery or launch a game without ever closing the chat window. The full potential depends on what developers bring to the table, but for now, Messenger is synced up with Spotify and promised an integration with Apple Music soon.

M is back with Suggest

Hey, remember M? Wouldn’t blame you if you forgot about it. Facebook’s mobile AI assistant often gets overshadowed by Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri. But Facebook is still beefing up M’s capabilities, and the AI will continue to get smarter over time, the company said at F8. M will soon allow businesses to make automation tools for managing customer interactions. There’s also a new M Suggest feature, which will jump in when you’re chatting about dinner, like your always-starving pal, to offer food recommendations.

The picture shows the logo of Facebook’s M assistant. (Facebook)

Facebook Workplace

Facebook has an enterprise version of its social network, called Workplace, that it launched last fall. Now Workplace is partnering with a bunch of enterprise partners, like Microsoft, Box, Quip and Salesforce, so that it’s easier to share and organize files. Workplace also opened up its platform so developers can make custom bots specific to their organization’s needs.