At Facebook’s F8 developer conference, the social network showcased a number of groundbreaking technologies, including updates to its video products, and teased some long-term projects that are on the horizon. Here’s a rundown of the key projects that stood out to us:
Virtual reality is becoming more realistic — and more social
The company unveiled Facebook Spaces, a new virtual reality platform that allows users to meet up in the VR world. Users create their own VR avatar, which looks like a 3D version of Snapchat’s Bitmoji. With the proper VR hardware, users can then virtually connect to socialize, share experiences such as VR videos, or play games together. Facebook said that initial tests indicate a dramatic rise in play time when users played games together, compared to users that played games alone.
On the production side of VR, Facebook showcased new VR camera designs and specialized software that allow for a more explorational viewing experience. These cameras allow users to change perspectives in a 360-degree VR experience, instead of being confined to viewing from a single position, for a much more realistic viewing of VR content. In addition, it allows for innovative special effects, such as the automatic replacement of the entire background of a video scene without the use of green screens.
Facebook-owned Oculus VR recently saw a slump in sales and a slow rate of user adoption. But with its rich social graph, Facebook is in a good position to leverage the social side of VR through Facebook Spaces.
Facebook gave its developer community a glimpse into its long-term research projects at F8: augmented reality hardware, new ways to interface with technology, and providing internet connectivity to rural communities and developing countries.
Augmented reality glasses: In Facebook’s (augmented) vision of the future, consumers will wear glasses that can virtually project images and objects onto their natural surroundings. This will allow users to interact with information and technology in entirely unprecedented ways. While this is a long-term bet, Facebook is optimistic that augmented reality glasses will be the next wave of digital user interfaces after smartphones.
Though-to-text interface: Facebook made public some of its research into new computer interfaces. Facebook is currently studying how to measure brain waves, with a goal of allowing users to directly interact with computers through thoughts. The project’s short term goal is to allow a user to interface with a computer, and control it via thoughts to ‘type’ at a speed of 100 words per minute.
Better internet connectivity for all: The company showcased several projects that bring internet connectivity to remote rural areas and the developing world, and makes connectivity cheaper and more efficient in urban spaces. Facebook is making progress with its autonomous Internet drone Aquila; an urban mesh network technology that can cover dead spots in dense city areas; and high-performance microwave links that are able to transmit up to 80Gbps (the equivalent of 4000 parallel ultra-HD video streams) wirelessly.
While these research projects may still be a few years away from the mass market, marketers will want to stay on top of these innovations so that they’re ready to pounce when advertising opportunities no doubt arise.
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