Facebook’s F8 developer conference emphasizes AR, AI potential

By Elizabeth Mullen

This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives from the social network announced new functionalities that will incorporate augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as major new features in its developers’ toolkit. At the company’s annual developer conference, F8, Facebook’s leaders announced Facebook Spaces, Messenger 2.0, a Camera Effects Platform and Places Graph, Mobile World Live reported.

New developments for developers

Facebook’s new options for developers underline the company’s overall belief in the potential impact of AR and AI in users’ daily lives. Facebook Spaces is a VR social media app where users can hang out with their friends in a virtual space. Users with an Oculus Rift device can immerse themselves in the experience and communicate with those without a device through Messenger.

Zuckerberg also announced the Camera Effects Platform, which allows developers to use AR tools such as photo frames, interactive effects, masks and hand- and skeletal-tracking tools in their designs. Some examples of these features in practice include adding steam to a coffee mug or superimposing a rain cloud over a plant. These options are made possible through the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology, according to Engadget.

The updated messaging platform, Messenger 2.0, was presented at F8 by David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products. The new version includes chat extensions, bot integration and bot search functionality. An AI assistant dubbed “M” will help users complete tasks within chat windows. For example, if a group is discussing ordering food, M will suggest placing the order through Delivery.com and facilitate splitting payments among users, all within one window. The “Smart Replies” bot is designed to help small businesses offer customers preset answers to common questions.

Places Graph gives developers access to free data on 140 million locations to help them build hyperlocal experiences. The new functionalities will be available for developers in beta testing immediately. Facebook’s AR Studio will allow developers to build experiences, and the company’s free Developer Circles network will let developers collaborate and share knowledge with one another virtually, according to Time.

Widespread impact

Facebook’s announcements come in the same week as Snapchat’s rollout of similar features, which allow users to add 3-D images and words to their snapped pictures and videos. The new features show a shift in priority from augmenting front-facing camera selfies to augmenting the area around a user. According to Mobile World Live, this feature will allow more of the products around a user to be visible, which may be particularly valuable to advertisers.

Updates to the Messenger Platform are set to have a particularly wide impact, as Mobile World Live noted there are 1.2 billion monthly active users of the service. Additionally, 100,000 developers are working on bots to add more features to the 2 billion messages sent between businesses and individuals monthly.

Written By

Elizabeth Mullen

Tech News Writer

Libby is a tech news writer and editor with years of experience covering the intersections of technology, business, finance and healthcare. She is particularly interested in disruptive technologies, big data and the ways innovative products can improve daily life in emerging markets.…