Miroslaw Stanek, Azimo‘s Head of Mobile Development, checked out F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, in California last month and found plenty to…

The 2017 edition followed the usual format: Mark Zuckerberg and his staff showing us what they’ve been working on during the last few months and how they think the future of social media will look. If by any chance you missed the keynote videos (day 1, day 2) and didn’t make it down to McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, here’s a round-up of F8 2017’s hottest topics.

Augmenting our reality

First up, Facebook’s focal direction stays unchanged from 2016 – to extend our reality as much as possible through technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D cameras and everything else that could enrich the real world and make physical distance between people negligible. Here are a couple of major highlights:

Camera Effects

This platform turns mobile devices into AR platforms. Not only will you be able to add text or stickers to your photos and videos, but you’ll also be able to interact with them in 3D – AR Studio lets artists and developers build AR experiences such as animated frames, masks and interactive effects that respond to motion.

Facebook Spaces

Welcome to a virtual world where, thanks to VR systems from Oculus, you’ll be able to see and even interact with your friends and family – or at least their fully personalised avatars – even if they’re on the other side of the world.

There were plenty of other advances to get excited about too, from AI to analyse people’s movements in real time, to a new version of Facebook’s 360 camera that takes the VR experience to a new level.

Sharing knowledge

There aren’t many tech companies on the scale of Facebook, but most of them (Google, Amazon, Netflix and others) are keen to share their knowledge and experiences with the wider world. Azimo’s tech team is proudly doing the same, so we’re very happy to support these great initiatives:

Facebook Developer Circles

Similar to Google Developer Groups or Apple‘s efforts to educate the next generation how to code, Facebook is building its own knowledge-sharing groups to help local communities, start-ups, entrepreneurs and developers achieve more.

Open Source

Many of the new technologies and solutions created by Facebook are shared with developers for free, and at F8 we heard about new projects for Android, JavaScript (React) and VR. There was also an exciting announcement in the field of AI: Caffe2 is a deep learning framework optimised to work on mobile devices (following in the footsteps of Google’s TensorFlow). It will bring greater intelligence to mobile apps, especially in the fields of computer vision, speech and language processing.

Connectivity

Even in 2017, there are still plenty of places in the world where internet connection is either very limited or not available at all. Facebook is continuing its research in this area to give global high-speed access to everyone – no matter where they happen to be.

Messenger magic

A year after Facebook launched the beta version of its Messenger Platform, it seems like chat bots and the rich messaging experience are here to stay for a while longer. During F8 2017, we heard about the new features packed into the Messenger Platform 2.0 version. Here are some of the highlights:

Discover Tab

That’s right, Facebook Messenger now has its own ‘bot store’ where people can browse and find third-party bots grouped by theme, popularity, location and more.

Smart Replies

AI may be the new buzzword, but even the simplest implementations require expert skills and weeks of work – for small businesses, it’s simply beyond their reach. But Smart Replies is looking to change all that, featuring AI that’s able to analyse fan pages, generate answers for FAQs and use that knowledge in chatbot conversations. With just a few clicks, you should soon be able to build your own chat bot powered by wit.ai, automatically answering FAQs such as opening hours.

Chat Extensions

When Facebook presented Messenger bots a year ago, they worked as standalone apps with conversational interface. Now, thanks to Chat Extensions, you can select content from a bot and share it directly with your group or individual Messenger thread. And it’s not limited to simple text – you can share images, links and more.

Parametric Messenger Codes

These QR-style codes for Messenger are now being rolled out to businesses and bots. Imagine you’re out and about and you spot a product you’re interested in. Simply scan the code with the Messenger camera to find out more from its dedicated Messenger bot.

M

This AI-powered assistant is currently only available to a very small group of users, but watch this space. You’ve heard of Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and Siri? Facebook’s virtual assistant is ready to join the party.

And finally…

F8 also offered us a glimpse of of the Facebook future in the shape of Building 8, a secret division of the social media giant. What are they working on? The technology of tomorrow, of course, including moonshot concepts such as wireless communication via brainwaves and speechless “talking” through skin. Pie in the sky? Possibly, but it’ll keep us all coming back in 2018.

Hope you enjoyed catching up with F8 2017. If you want to know more, you can see videos from all the F8 talks here.


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