If you want to see more than a Google weather report for South Africa’s incoming cold front, you can track detailed aspects of the…
F8 is Facebook’s annual developer conference, which was held last week in San Francisco. Mark Zuckerberg gave developers insight into the focus points for the social giant, and revealed a 10 year road map – something perhaps at odds within an industry that shifts and grows and changes direction on an almost daily basis.
By his own admission, it’s a lofty plan: “I think we can all underestimate just how much the world can change in 10 years.” To think that 10 years ago, Facebook was still in its infancy, to predict the future a decade down the line is an interesting thought experiment.
Facebook’s key drives include connectivity, virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI). Although VR and connectivity were previously announced, they have seen some incredible advances as a result of huge effort and investment.
As an obvious VR offshoot, Zuckerberg believes that “video will represent as big a shift in communication as mobile has been.” The company is steering toward 360° video (simply referred to as 360), augmented reality, and well as live streaming.
Unprecedented growth. Unprecedented opportunity
Facebook has found that everything it has done with video has exceeded its expectations. This has led to the prediction, and continued investment in video as the media upon which most future communication will be based.
The enthusiasm and uptake of 360, which was released within the last year, has led to the release of “Surround 360”. While still in Beta stage, the company is seeking ways of putting 360 into the hands of consumers and brands. Currently, creating 360 video is an extremely sophisticated process, and a near impossible feat without expensive hardware and software. Cameras, pointing in every direction from the same vantage point, are required. Then, high-level software is required to stitch the footage together, which will smooth out all the contours and the lines, and allow the video to appear as a seamless image. Images require stabilising; shutter speeds need to be perfectly coordinated; light and colours need to match. In short, creating a 360 video is a hi-tech operation, which is out of reach for most people.
Surround 360, while currently fairly cumbersome will be refined and reduced to an easily transportable consumer product. Furthermore, Facebook has open-sourced the IP, allowing developers from all over the world to start utilising the software and the algorithms that were written to make 360 possible.
Augmented and VR, as bolsters or add-ons to the 360 experience, have received massive investment from the company. Oculus Rift, announced last year, allows for a far more impressive 360 experience, and while the devices are currently enormous, Zuckerberg hints at developers reducing them, in the near future, to the size of regular sunglasses. By all accounts, 360 video, virtual, and augmented reality will become a massive part, if not the standard, of how we do social, and how we connect with people, both personally, and as brands.
Oculus Rift is also launching a VR “glove”, which allows the wearer immersed in a virtual reality experience to feel and touch.
Live streaming – anything, to anyone, at any time
Probably one of the coolest announcements was around Live – while it’s been around for a few weeks, and we’ve probably all seen it, and all tried it, it still presents an incredible advance for seamless video communication.
So, why is it so cool?
With Live, your friends/followers/customers can put on their VR glasses, and you can stream live from your GoPro or similar device, allowing them to experience your world in virtual reality, in real time. Facebook has just released an API, which allows anyone, with almost any device, to tap into Live, and stream. This presents exciting future opportunities for brands. As influencers become a greater part of marketing strategies, and VR 360 becomes the standard communication platform, brands, within the next decade, will be taking consumers through experiential content – totally transforming the customer experience and brand relationship.
AI – more perceptive than humans
In the nearer future, brands will no doubt be making use of Facebook’s investment in artificial intelligence (AI) bots, and their integration into Messenger. Says Zuckerberg: “AI will power services with better than human-level perception.”
Riding the Messenger wave, which currently hosts over 900 million people (which together with WhatsApp is responsible for about 60 billion messages a day), the Facebook bot service will allow companies to “chat” to consumers – and will be an appropriate communication tool for everything from political parties to retailers, weather services and IT support.
Last year, Facebook released the first version of “M”, its virtual PA. The coding behind M is hugely sophisticated, and since its launch in August it has been infinitely refined and advanced. At F8, Facebook announced that, like Surround 360, it was open-sourcing this IP – allowing developers access to the artificial intelligence code. This includes neural networks and fuzzy logic, and all sorts of cool things that allow devs to “overlay” their service on the existing robot – practically giving M the right “face” to suit the company’s corporate image. The possibilities this presents are absolutely incredible.
Building on this, Facebook’s release of “Sponsored Messages” allows advertisers to re-target customers who have messaged their bot in the past. In a huge move for the advertising world, correspondence will utilise Messenger, allowing brands to foster a one-on-one relationships with clients, which will appear personalised and intimate, yet not require the extremely expensive human resource component that currently makes this kind of brand building and communication prohibitive.
Facebook certainly can’t predict the future of digital a decade from now. But the work the company is doing is bringing science fiction into reality, into our homes and hands. The opportunities these developments bring to the marketing stage are endless, and extremely exciting. And the possibilities when combined with creative content are changing the face of client interaction and advertising in a profound and fundamental way.