On the very first day of its annual F8 developer conference, Facebook hit us with a barrage of new innovation and features coming to the platform. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was big on Augmented Reality, while the new VR app paltform is something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Here's everything the social network has in store for you this year.
Facebook is bringing Augmented Reality to your smartphone cameras
“We are making the camera the first Augmented Reality Platform,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at the company’s annual developer meet. The new camera features within the Facebook app allows users to superimpose various face filters on their pictures, just like Snapchat. These can be accessed from the camera icon on the top left corner of the Facebook app home screen. Facebook says the platform will rely on developers to create new AR experiences for its users and will be compatible with AR hardware such as eyeglasses in the future.
Besides adding face filters, Facebook also plans to include the ability to add virtual 3D objects and locations to real world environments through its AR camera app. To recall, Snapchat just introduced a similar feature on its platform through its “World Lenses” upgrade. In addition, Facebook is testing features such as AR games, virtual notes, animated virtual art, 3D words and more. “It'll take a while for this to develop. Experiences are not going to change dramatically overnight...This is the kind of technology we live to build. Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to all our apps, I'm confident we're going to push this AR platform forward,” said Zuckerberg.
Facebook launches ‘Spaces’ VR social app for Oculus Rift
While Facebook was big on Augmented Reality applications, it did not leave Virtual Reality far behind. The company has finally made their VR social app available on Oculus Rift. Called ‘Spaces’,the app was first announced at Oculus Connect last year. Straight out of a science fiction movie, the app lets up to 4 friends meet in an interactive virtual world. Users can experience 360-degree video backdrops, play with 3D objects and draw using Oculus Touch Controllers, customise their avatars using their Facebook profile pictures and more. "This is the easiest it's ever been to bring the real you into VR," said Rachel Franklin, Head of Social VR at Facebook. Further, Facebook Spaces lets users easily phone a friend in the real world with Messenger video calling. Once the friend answers the call, a window is instantly opened into the virtual world, and those in the VR environment can start interacting with the friend on Messenger call.
Of course, since you are hanging out with friends, you are bound to take a selfie or two, only this time, it will be a virtual one. Users get a selfie stick in the Spaces app, allowing them to take photos inside their VR experience. “We’ve only just scratched the surface of social VR technology. In the future, it will continue to transform the way people around the world stay connected with their communities and those closest to them. We can’t wait to get there,” says Facebook.
Messenger gets revamped with group bots, bot discovery, new parametric QR codes
Facebook Messenger now has 1.2 billion monthly active users, so it’s safe to say that Messenger is a huge area of importance for the social network. At F8, Facebook announced a bunch of new features for its fast-growing messaging app. The company has now built a new ‘Discover Tab’ on Messenger, making it easier for its users to find bots on the platform.
Using the Discover tab, Facebook users can find their recently used bots, browse various bot categories, see bot previews and more. The feature has only been rolled out to a few people in the US as of now. Bots can now also be added to group conversations in Messenger with Facebook’s new Chat Extension feature. This will enable multiple users to chat with a particular bot at the same time. Facebook has also added product features like game bots and Rich Gameplay (turn-by-turn games) to Messenger. The company says, “it’s now even easier to challenge your friends to a game in Messenger by tapping the Games tab on the Messenger home screen – which is starting to roll out today to some people in the US.”
Apart from the Messenger Discovery tab, Facebook also rolled out new parametric QR codes for the platform. These will let users scan QR codes in public places to bring up different bots. For example, if you are at a basketball game and a Messenger QR code is pasted on the walls of the stadium, you can scan it to bring up a food ordering bot. Businesses will now able to generate multiple parametric QR codes for one bot, offering their customers more choice. For example, to track where a code was scanned, or to apply a different QR code for each table at a restaurant. This also gives people the potential to scan via the camera instead of the QR scanner feature.
Instagram for Android now available in offline mode
Facebook owned Instagram had an important announcement to share with users and developers at the F8 conference. Since 80% of Instagram’s users are based outside of the US, the platform is looking to make its content and features easily accessible in places with low data connectivity. This is especially beneficial for countries like India. Instagram Offline has now been announced for Android users and will allow them to see content from previously loaded feeds on the platform. Users can also leave offline comments, see previously visited profiles, save media, follow and unfollow people, and the actions will be executed once the user goes back online. Instagram says it's working to get these offline features to iOS soon.
So these were all the new announcements you need to know about from Day 1 of Facebook's F8 conference. Let us know which one excites you the most in our comments section below.