Kicking off Facebook's annual F8 developer conference today (April 18), CEO Mark Zuckerberg plotted out how the social network will change in the coming years. Facebook's efforts will be rooted in both augmented and virtual reality, with the company's recent push to imitate Snapchat marking just its first steps toward something larger. Here's what we learned from the F8 keynote. (Image credits: Facebook F8 live stream)
Available in a closed beta starting today, Facebook will launch an augmented reality platform on the Snapchat-esque Camera feature recently introduced to the Facebook app for Android and iOS. It'll use depth perception and incredibly powerful object recognition. For example, tapping on a coffee cup generates a list of related effects such as steam and another cuppa joe. Facebook is leaning hard on humor here, as Zuckerberg claimed that people don't often share things unless they're funny.
One preview featured a father and his kids pointing a smartphone running the Facebook Camera at a table and then seeing a gaming universe pop up. While you'll only see the game on the phone, kids can slam hands on table, a la whack-a-mole, to defeat baddies.
Spray-painting a building might be cool, but it can also be illegal. If you'd prefer to skip the jail time, Facebook's augmented reality program will allow artists to digitally paint on walls. The one catch is that these murals will only be visible to anyone else using the Facebook Camera lens.
After casually thumbing his nose at the one-block radius of Pokémon Go locations, Zuckerberg noted how finely-located Facebook's AR will be. Users will be able to leave digital notes on bar walls, tables and even their fridge, creating virtual Yelps and shopping lists.
Facebook's take on virtual reality looks an awful lot like Second Life, the online virtual world. Facebook's take on social VR is called Facebook Spaces and it's now available in beta for Oculus Rift and Touch, where machine learning will allow automatically suggested avatars based on your profile photos, with further customization options available. Facebook Spaces's big feature was its integration with Messenger, which will allow VR group chats, potentially allow far-flung friends to connect virtually.
While we knew advertisers would be able to talk to you in Messenger, Facebook announced it's going to do more to get you to finds them. A new Discover section will help users find the bots and businesses relevant to their areas. Facebook says this will let companies "maintain critical conversations" across apps. While Facebook focused on the positive side of this feature in terms of community groups, executives also mentioned Fandango, and I can only assume this means the ticket-selling app will gain another way to ask me what I thought of The Fate of The Furious. (It was good.)
Facebook announced it will begin rolling out chat extensions that allow you to bring your favorite apps into Messenger. While the most prominently featured launch extension came from Spotify, Facebook said Apple Music will come to the platform soon.