Everything Facebook launched at both days of F8 and why

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Everything Facebook launched at both days of F8 and why

Typing with telepathy? Hearing through your skin? An augmented reality developer platform? These are just a few of the launches and demos Facebook showed off at the social network’s big F8 conference. Here’s an updated breakdown of each major announcement from both days of F8 and why they’re important to you and Facebook.


Direct Brain-Computer Interface For Typing

Facebook’s secretive Building 8 R&D lab today revealed it’s working on a direct brain-to-computer interface that could let you type just by thinking without the need for invasive surgical implants. Facebook hope to optically scan your brain 100 times per second to determine what you’re silently saying in your head and convert it to text. Facebook’s goal is to let you type at 100 words per minute, 5X faster than on a phone, just using your brain.

Why: Though this technology is still in its early stages, one day it could power interfaces for virtual and augmented reality, where you can “brain-click” on the answer to the question rather than needing a screen or controller. By revealing this project now now, Facebook can combat the narrative that it’s stop innovating and just copies Snapchat. That way, top engineering talent keeps knocking on its door.


Hearing Through Skin

Your ear’s cochlea converts sound vibrations into frequencies your brain understands. But since your skin is covered in nerve endings, braille proved we can convert physical sensations into ideas in the mind. Building 8’s ‘skin-hearing’ project has already taught a test subject 9 different words they can identify through haptic feedback relayed with a wearable sleeve.

Why: Again, Facebook wants to boost recruiting by showing it’s still innovative. But the technology could also assist Facebook’s hearing-impaired users, and offers ways to relay simple information like what you get in push notifications without ever having to interrupt your eyes or ears.


Facebook's new Surround 360 Cameras

Facebook launched two new versions of the open-sourced Surround 360 camera it revealed last year. The big 24-camera x24 and smaller x6 models both shoot with six degrees of freedom. That viewers of the content they capture can lean around and move their head, and the 360 imagery of a place will move and shift just like if they were really there.

Why: Facebook sees 360 and 3D video as the future of content sharing, but it needs more creators actually making this content. By inventing these cameras and then giving away the designs for others to build or sell, Facebook can accelerate the maturation of the 360 content production ecosystem.


Augmented Reality Camera Effects Platform

Mark Zuckerberg says copying Snapchat was just Facebook laying the groundwork for its new augmented reality developer platform. Devs can build AR selfie masks, overlay info on real world objects like putting reviews on a restaurant’s storefront, create interactive games, and add virtual objects to your reality like a chess board or TV. Experiences can be triggered by objects detected in your camera, your exact location, movement, or data pulled from other apps.

Why: Facebook can’t build every single AR experience you could want by itself. Thanks to 10 years of building its platform, it’s enlisting an army of outside developers to help it one-up Snapchat’s few dozen AR filters with an endless array of AR content. The real world would be too big to fill with AR without the assistance of a distributed crowd of creators.


Frame Studio For Making Your Own Filters

Now you can make your own still 2D filters for Facebook’s camera. Frame Studio lets you upload a design for an overlaid graphic with no coding required, and friends or your Page’s fans can then use them in their photos or videos.

Why: Facebook wants people to do more personal sharing of exclusive content, since that sharing declined in 2015 and 2016. By letting people make image filters for their home town, best friend, or their unique art style, they’ll have new reasons to share.


Facebook Workplace Bots And File Services

Facebook’s collaboration tool for enterprise businesses called Workplace today added chat bots, integrations with file sharing services like Box and Salesforce, and integrations with IT compliance tools like Netskope, Smarsh and Skyhigh.

Why: Facebook must shed its reputation as a purely consumer app and look professional if its going to convince CIOs to pay for Workplace. Bots bring Workplace closer to feature parity with Slack. Meanwhile, the file sharing and compliance integrations instantly make Workplace more convenient and secure without Facebook having to do all the work of building these complex systems by itself.


Messenger Group Bots

Messenger bots can now be added to group chat conversations. There they can provide a news ticker about an ongoing sports game, let your friends collaboratively build a Spotify playlist, or find a consensus about group travel options and book flights together on Kayak.

Why: When Messenger bots launched last year, they were often disappointing because AI technology wasn’t adequate for bots to convincingly pretend to be human conversation partners. It was also tough for people to find good bots to use. Group bots takes the pressure off bots to act human and makes them more like digital assistants, and they give developers a viral way to grow as friends expose bots to each other in group chats.


Messenger Bot Discovery

Facebook Messenger will now have a discovery tab where you can find your recently used bots, browse bot categories, see trending experiences, or search for bots. Users can see a preview of a bot’s functionality before they jump into a conversation with it. Meanwhile, Smart Replies let an AI learn answers to commonly asked questions for a business and automatically reply through their Messenger bot when someone else asks the same question.

Why: To attract developers to its Messenger bot platform, Facebook has to offer growth potential. But the platform launched last year with no discovery mechanisms beyond simple search. Facebook can now recommend the best bots, help people find ones for the right occasion, and potentially sell sponsored placement in the discovery tab for businesses willing to pay. Meanwhile, Smart Replies alleviates businesses from staffing someone 24/7 to respond on Messenger so they’re more comfortable getting on board.


Messenger Parametric QR Codes

Facebook has revamped its Messenger QR codes so now instead of just leading to a Page, person, or bot, they can open specific experiences within bots. Plus they can be easily scanned with Messenger’s camera. For example, the Golden State Warriors basketball team can print out different codes and put them around their arena. One code could trigger a food delivery to your seat and another could show you a merchandise catalog.

Why: Facebook wants to boost its presence in the physical world, create a new way to discover chat bots, and get people deep into specific bot experiences like ecommerce. If Facebook can get more businesses using these codes, it could convert them to doing more of their marketing and customer support on Messenger.


Messenger Games Tab

Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games now have their own tab where you can find new ones to play. Plus now you can challenge friends to turn-by-turn games rather than just going for high scores.

Why: Games felt cramped living only inside the message composer on threads, and some of the most popular social games like Words With Friends are turn-by-turn. Today’s updates lure developers to the platform with more growth potential and flexibility.


React VR and React Fiber

Facebook’s popular open-source user interface JavaScript framework React got two big updates today. The official launch of React VR will make it quick for developers to create virtual reality content. React Fiber is a complete re-write of the React framework designed to power the imagery-heavy experiences of the future.

Why: Facebook wants to keep the developer community close. If they rely on its open source frameworks, maybe they’ll build for its various platforms like Oculus, Messenger bots, and Facebook’s new Camera Effects platform.


Litho Android Framework

Facebook is open sourcing the tool it internally uses to build its Android app. Litho allows for the efficient creation of Android user interfaces that run at 60 frames per second.

Why: Facebook wants to make Litho as powerful as possible. By open sourcing it, Facebook can take contributions from the developer community and bake them back into the framework so its own Android app gets better.


Instagram Offline Mode

Instagram for Android now works offline. You can consume content you previously loaded, and leave Likes, comments, and more that get added when you reconnect to the Internet.

Why: 80% of Instagram’s users are outside the US, with many in the developing world where Internet access is spotty or too expensive. Offline mode could boost Instagram’s growth with these demographics that Snapchat say it’s purposefully ignored.


Delegated Account Recovery

If you lose your password to another website that uses Delegated Account Recovery, you’ll be able to go to Facebook to verify your identity and regain access to the other site. Now any app or site can integrate Facebook’s Delegated Account Recovery SDK to add the functionality.

Why: Facebook wants to become entrenched as a fundamental utility of the web. If you use it to recover your lost passwords, you’ll never be able to quit it entirely. Gaining a presence on other popular apps and sites could also help Facebook with user growth and engagement.


Open-Sourcing Caffe2 For AI

Facebook already uses the Caffe2 artificial intelligence development framework across the company and now it’s open sourcing it. This will allow outside developers to build more powerful and efficient AI systems.

Why: Facebook sucks in more content to analyze than anyone, so it receives an outsized benefit when AI technology advances. Open sourcing Caffe2 could get the developer community to contribute upgrades to the framework. Meanwhile, with AI talent being such a hot commodity in Silicon Valley, Facebook wants to buddy up to these engineers any way it can.


AI-Powered Analytics Suggestions

Facebook Insights will now do some of the work for Page and business owners. Artificial intelligence can now scan your analytics and highlight important changes or your best performing content. And new Omni-Channel Insights let you track everything going on with all your properties in one dashboard.

Why: If Facebook can show Page owners what resonates with their followers, it can help them create better content that enriches the News Feed. When businesses feel like they understand and are in control of their Facebook presence, they’re more confident about spending money to promote it.


Facebook Spaces aka Facebook In VR

Facebook Spaces lets you and up to three friends hang out in a virtual room where you can chat, draw, watch 360 videos, make Messenger video calls, and take VR selfies — all while appearing as a cartoony avatar based on your recently tagged photos. For now it’s only available on the Oculus Rift VR headset and Oculus Touch controllers, but eventually it will expand to other tethered VR devices.

Why: This is the social VR vision that prompted Facebook to acquire Oculus three years ago. Facebook doesn’t want someone else to be “the Facebook of VR”. It wants to own that market itself, and soak up the long engagement time people might spend hanging out with friends and family scattered around the world.


Bonus: Zuckerberg responds to 'Snapchat copycat' criticism

“I guess I’m not that worried about that”, Mark Zuckerberg told TechCrunch in response to claims that Facebook just clones Snapchat and doesn’t innovate any more. Read our interview with the CEO where he explains why copying Snapchat was just step one of Facebook’s new augmented reality platform.