By @TheMarkDalton

Facebook’s F8 event took place this week and Mark Zuckerberg was onstage for the opening keynote where he set out the map for Facebook’s plans over the next 10 years. Here are three of the big announcements that were made during the opening keynote and how they will affect your Facebook experience.

Chatbots:

For the second year in a row Facebook put Messenger front and centre of the keynote. At one point we were kicking up a fuss as users when we were livid that Facebook wanted us to download Messenger as a standalone app. At the time nobody could understand why they would put us through the pain of hitting a download button in the App Store and have another app on our device.

However Facebook clearly knew where they wanted to take Messenger and what they wanted to achieve with it. They have plans far greater than just a messaging app and it is clear now that those plans could never be realised with the messaging functionality built into the flagship app.

Since breaking away from the main app, Messenger has evolved with a lot of new functionality and a personal assistant which is built into Messenger called “M” is being trialled among a small number of select users in San Francisco. This year was the introduction of bots to the platform. Chatbots are basically automated systems which will talk to you in Messenger. You can read more about them in our chatbot article here.

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You can start using chatbots right now, simply go to the search bar in the Messenger app. When you hit the search bar you won’t see any bots populating there at the moment however that is what will start to appear over the coming days based on what kind of bots Facebook thinks you may like. For now you have to manually search for them. So search for “Hi Poncho” and then start chatting. You will be taken through some initial questions by the bot such as location ect.

Once you are up and running you will be able to converse with the bot and they will deliver a variety of basic functions. However, in testing it seems that Facebook’s chatbots have a lot of work required before they are truly ready to be regarded as potential cutting edge technology. They seem poorly equipped to handle some of the basics. When asking about the Panama Papers – a big story globally at the moment – the CNN bot simply responds with a shrug emoji.

Hi Poncho is a weather bot however a simple question like, “What’s the weather like?” had the bot stumped and it was unable to respond. On top of that the respond times are all over the places. “Respond in a few minues” was “Responds in a few hours” last night…not really all that useful if I need a weather report soon. If you want to potentially replace the app you need to do it better than the actual app.

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Now of course this is all new and I have no doubt that Facebook will improve their bots, probably very quickly. However if you are jumping in to give it a go then don’t expect the most perfect experience in the world just yet.

360 Degree Camera & Social VR

Facebook has big ambitions for VR. This summer they will release a design and software code for a 360-degree camera system. It is a move which they will hope can generate more content for Facebook owned Oculus VR virtual reality firm. The setup will include 17 cameras, 14 of which will be bolted together in a horizontal ring, a fish-eye lens on top and two more cameras on the bottom.

Special stitching software allows the camera to generate 360-degree panoramas. Facebook is not selling the camera rig themselves but instead they are hoping the open source nature of the project will encourage others to build their own rigs.

Facebook’s long term ambition is that virtual reality can intimate social interactions over long distances. In a demonstration, a pair of executives donned Oculus headsets and used them to explore 360-degree photos of London. They had special controllers in hand which allowed them to manipulate the environment including a digital selfie stick. The project is only a demo at the moment but it shows where Facebook are headed and what they would like to achieve.

High Quality Live Video

Live video has become an obsession for Zuckerberg. Periscope, the live streaming app owned by Twitter has proven just how fruitful live content can be. Live content gives a chance to capture moments spontaneously, and while Snapchat may not be live content, the spontaneity of the platform in what people are sharing has been immensely popular.

Facebook has opened up its live streaming feature to all users this week and people can stream from all kinds of devices, not just smartphones where Periscope is currently limited to.

Facebook is also implementing a live video tab to act as a hub where users can find live content from all different kinds of people on the Facebook platform. On the desktop there will be a live map which shows video broadcasts from 60 countries. Facebook has also launched a Rights Manager feature that lets publishers manage copyright-protected content that they upload to the service and restrict how it gets used by others.


 

Those are three of the top stories headlining Facebook’s F8 conference this week. You can watch the keynote along with some demo’s in the video below.

 

 

 

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