Facebook is working on an impressive set of projects that will not only make internet accessible to a vastly wider base, but will change the face of virtual and augmented reality and will also change the way people interact with companies. As part of the ten year plan, the company will embark on an expansion binge across all its platforms to make them more secure, flexible, accessible, and profitable.
In his keynote address during the opening of Facebook’s F8 conference CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined the company’s ten year plan that will see laser planes distribute internet in poorly connected regions, enable companies to offer customer services using an AI chatbot, and create smaller and more affordable virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets.
The F8 conference, which is held each year at a different location, brings together website and application developers to share ideas and learn about changes on Facebook platforms. Since 2007, the company has also used this gathering to unveil new products and projects. Here are the most outstanding announcements from Facebook in 2016:
Laser Airplanes to Provide Internet Connectivity
With a wingspan almost the size of a Boeing 737, the Facebook drone, known as Aquila, is soon going for a test flight. The plane does not need an on-board pilot and will fly autonomously.
Many drones of this kind will soon be launched into remote areas to provide constant internet connectivity. Hovering 60,000 to 90,000 feet above, they will use laser technology to transmit data both to the ground and to one another. Facebook says this technique is more efficient and less costly compared to using ground signal boosters.
Unlike the Boeing, Aquila is several times lighter and this means it spends less energy while airborne. Each plane is expected to last at least 90-days in the air before it lands for refueling.
The tech giant will also channel more investments to develop satellite and terrestrial internet infrastructure. On one of his posts, Zuckerberg notes that “giving more people a voice through a broader internet connection makes the world a better place”. However, Facebook has emphasized that it has no plans to provide internet services; rather, it will work on this technology and hand it over to established ISP’s for further expansions.
Facebook to Combine VR and AR Headsets
Virtual and augmented reality devices have changed how people perceive gaming and online interactions even though both are still at their initial stages of development. The two technologies work differently: VR completely immerses a person into a virtual environment, where everything that they see around them is not real, whereas AR brings imaginary objects into the user’s field view such that they cannot easily differentiate between what is real and what is not.
Currently, Oculus, a subsidiary of Facebook, produces the most advanced VR device in the market, while Microsoft’s HoloLens is the leading AR device. The current devices, however, have been criticized for their bulkiness and for the fact that they cannot combine VR and AR into one kit which makes it more expensive for users to acquire both.
Facebook is now working on combining both VR and AR together in one headset. Apart from being more affordable, future headsets will be much lighter, just like Google Glass.
Live API to Stream Video from Drones
Live API is a new feature allowing users to share real time videos on Facebook. Unlike in the past when live videos could only be broadcast from specific gadgets, Live API allows video streaming from all devices, including drones and smart TVs. The recent F8 conference, for instance, was broadcasted live on Facebook using drone cameras.
Facebook Messenger AI to Provide Customer Service
Companies will now be able to provide less expensive customer service by programming the chatbot on the Facebook Messenger platform to interact with clients on their behalf. By following a set of instructions provided by Facebook, firms can feed their public data into the Messenger platform. The chatbot will then auto-generate answers whenever a user has questions about the firm in question.
The advantage of using an AI bot for such tasks is that it provides quicker responses and can serve many people simultaneously. In addition, chatbots communicate almost like humans, hence talking to them will not be too different from interacting with a real person at the customer desk.
With the incoming news that the former head of the DARPA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military, has joined Facebook’s research team, there are definitely more surprises on the way.