Facebook’s Developer Conference: From Bots to Virtual Reality
Facebook released several new features and products recently. They announced them at their F8 developer conferences. The features and products range from virtual reality to their Messenger platform.
“Chatbots” and drones being live streamed seem a bit gimmicky, but they’re much more than a gimmick as they’re aimed to increase video engagement, boost VR and turn Messenger into the one place you go for everything.
The recent releases are important for Facebook.
The company released their own 360-degree video camera for professionals to capture VR footage.
The Surround 360 has 17 cameras and it’s safe to say that it looks as though it’s a flying saucer. Facebook said it cost them about $30,000 to build this VR camera. Basically, the camera stitches the images from each of the cameras into a solo 360-degree photo.
Believe it or not, Facebook is actually giving the design plans and software code away, free of charge. Facebook obviously wants to make money from the hardware, but they’re hoping that other companies will create different versions of this VR camera, including a consumer version, for a lower cost.
Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, said, “The reason why companies are bringing these to market is…to help consumers and help content creators to make the content needed for VR products.”
In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 billion. Oculus created the Oculus Rift VR headset. Facebook has enabled 360-degree video on it’s website as well. So these recent moves are an attempt to add more content to help VR push off to the masses.
Nokia created a professional VR camera called the OZO, which costs $60,000. Samsung also created a VR camera called the Gear VR which is a handheld device meant for consumers to capture 360 degree footage.
At the F8 developer conference, another topic that was talked about a lot was “Bots”. A bot is software that people are able to send messages to and then receive a message back automatically. It’s able to work by utilizing artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI.
Facebook released tools that developers can use to develop bots inside of Facebook Messenger so that customers can engage with brands via the Facebook Messenger app. At first, the bot will be a combination of AI and human intervention (if a question is too hard for the bot). The goal is to completely automate though.
Some examples include a customer being able to handle their complaints with the Messenger app as well as order products or services through the app. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, didn’t make note of how they will generate revenue from this. However, several analysts have said what they think.
Martin Garner, Senior Vice President of Internet Research at CCS Insight, said, “It is about messages from users to companies. Part of it is how they display and sell products through messenger. There are several options opening up here and that is a key part of Facebook positioning it as platform.”
The plan is for Messenger to be the one place for anything and everything a person wants or needs whether it’s shopping, searching, ordering a cab or a slew of other options. This will help Facebook appeal to consumers that want to have everything in one place, rather than having to open several apps.
Bots have been around for a while, especially in China. Several companies are already using bots and Telegram, the messaging app, already has their own bot store.
The main aspect for Facebook is that it has a much larger user base than any potential competitors as it has 900 million users.
Live video and drones were another topic at Facebook’s F8 developer conference. Video views on Facebook are growing rapidly. Facebook said this past November that the site generates 8 billion views per day. Since Facebook is able to charge more for a video ad than most companies could, there’s reason for Facebook to be spending time and resources here.
Recently, Facebook launched live video as an option for people to live stream with their cell phones or any camera. This could potentially present a large challenge to YouTube and Periscope among other companies.
Garner said, “Video is a massive expansion area for Facebook and a big headache for Google with YouTube. What I think they are doing with Facebook Live is really extending the reach and that opens the door to a large number of options about how you interact with video.”