The Future according to Facebook: all bots, AI, VR, and live video
At this years annual F8 developer conference in San Francisco, Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO illustrated just how ambitious he’s become in these last 14 years. The biggest announcements of the event were around Virtual Reality and making Artificial Intelligence a central focus for Facebook’s product strategy in the next period. One first step towards that is going to be in the Messenger platform, making Chat Bots to take over the scene and allowing brands to get to us.
The buzz around Chat Bots
Most of the discussions are around the AI-driven new product: chat bots. Bots are tools that send live, automated messages, images or offers into Facebook Messenger. Now, this is highly relevant as Messenger is used by over 900 million people every month and 50 million businesses. For most of the people in the world, it will be the first experience of interacting with an Artificial Intelligence.
Facebook revealed that it will now allow businesses to deliver automated customer support, e-commerce guidance, content and interactive experiences through Messenger chat bots.
David Marcus, Facebook’s Head of Messaging, joked about how addictive it was to interact with bots:
I guarantee you’re going to spend way more money than you want on this” he said and raised some question marks regarding the chat bots.
The impact of the bots on businesses
It’s like a new reality altogether created by pumping up new functionalities over an existing channel. And Facebook did a far reaching trick here. Now, for brands and Mobile App Businesses the race is on: they will have to assume an even more customer-oriented approach in their business and create their own bots. You can see what you can do today in this space by taking a look at the Messenger Platform here.
Messenger’s Send and Receive API lets developers create bots which will allow Messenger users to search for things and interact with businesses.
But what if you want to use machine learning and create more complex scenarios? Bot Engine is Facebook’s more powerful bot framework, based on Wit.ai’s work. So, if developers embrace the framework, Messenger users are going to get a variety of small specialized bots.
Are Mobile Apps going to die?
A different approach says that businesses will no longer have to build apps because they will be able to do everything through Messenger and other Facebook apps.
Users will talk to businesses via chat, so it would feel more like a conversation than a transaction. “A thread of conversation is a much better form of app,” said also Marcus. A Messenger chat has your identity, the context of your previous conversations and always follows on logically from your last message.
Facebook has been testing this system with Dutch airline KLM. Once you booked your flight, your confirmation details are sent to you in a conversation bubble on Messenger.
Is it all about Advertising?
To monetise the whole chat bot movement, Facebook will allow “Sponsored Messages” ads by charging businesses to send re-engagement messages to people who’ve already voluntarily started a conversation with them.
What Facebook has changed for Mobile Businesses
For all of us who build mobile products, something to take a look at will be the Account Kit, a tool that Facebook is releasing as a new developer tool to allow user to login into apps without a pass. The tool will let app builders send customised push and in-app notifications in order to run push campaigns.
Instant Articles are now open to all publishers and businesses. Until recently, Instant Articles were only available to a few publishers but starting with this edition of F8, all publishers can take advantage of the fast-loading and mostly distraction-free view that Instant Articles offer. This opens a lot of new possibilities for marketers and will have an impact on how we consume content in the mobile world.
Other cool announcements from Facebook’s F8
Facebook has built a 360-degree camera called Facebook Surround 360. It sports 14 embedded cameras supporting 8K videos, shooting with 60 fps and it has a cool UFO shape.
For sure Facebook is not getting into the camera business so stay tuned because during the summer they will put the open-source designs and software and hardware details on GitHub.
We are looking forward to see if users will be able to access it through mobile or it will be available only through Facebook’s Oculus VR set. But whichever will be, as Facebook’s CEO mentioned: “Virtual Reality has the potential to be the most social platform”.
Facebook Live Video
Mark Zuckerberg also announced the launch of Facebook’s video live-stream API that will give you the possibility to stream live on Facebook from any device you own. This will allow developers to build and stream live Facebook videos right from their apps and we will definitely see this in the upcoming apps and different devices. We anticipate a surge in apps using this new functionality and Facebook as a strong distribution channel for video content.
Do you have such an idea now? We can help you build it right away.
Free Basics and Aquila
Having almost everyone who’s got Internet on their platforms (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram & WhatsApp), the biggest growth stopper for Zuck & Co seems to be the fact that still lots of people (especially in Asia and Africa) lack Internet access. So, to grow, you need these populations in.
So, again, Zuck talked in this F8 a lot about Free Basics – their service to bring a limited menu of free Internet services to the developing world. It backfired in the past but they are still trying to make it happen.
Another solution for this would be Facebook’s initiative to help connect the two-thirds of the world’s population without Internet access through pilotless planes that beam wireless from the sky. The good news for mobile entrepreneurs is right here: this basically will rise the number of smartphones on the world and will give more opportunities to mobile businesses to explore different markets around the world.
As a conclusion
After all, 2016’s F8 brought a lot of new perspectives and cool products that businesses need to take into consideration in order to stay relevant or even get ahead of the competition. And more that this: it gave us a glimpse into how the near future is going to look like according to one of the biggest players in the digital space. And we should definitely take notice. In the next months the changes will be more and more visible in our lives and we can’t wait to see how things will evolve from the mobile businesses perspective, because for sure things will change.
We would love to hear your thoughts on where Facebook is headed so feel free to comment below or connect with us through social media.
Tapptitude is a mobile development agency specialised in building full-stack mobile apps on iOS and Android for startups and international brands innovating on mobile.