F8 is Facebook’s annual conference for developers and entrepreneurs that build around and for the site. This year the 2-day event took place on May 1 & 2 in San Jose, California with over 50 sessions and interactive demonstrations for attendees to learn about what’s coming up for Facebook in the future. Day 1 opened with a keynote speech from none other than the creator and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Naturally, he focused most largely on the company’s newest privacy feature, “clear history”, which will allow users to “clear your browsing history on Facebook — what you’ve clicked on, websites you’ve visited, and so on.” Although he did caution that this may degrade the Facebook experience for those that choose to wipe their data, the site will have to relearn their preferences and become familiar with each profile once this feature has been used.
There are 6 key developments that were discussed on Day 1 by additional Facebook professionals and developers. This list just touches the surface of what FB and affiliated apps are creating for this next year.
- Facebook will launch a dating service.
- Augmented reality camera effects are coming to brands on facebook messenger.
- Instagram is adding video chat.
- WhatsApp is adding group video calls.
- Facebook is making it easier to edit privacy settings.
- Oculus Go is a cheap, new virtual reality headset for everyone.
Day 2 kicked off with a keynote speech from Facebook’s CTO, Mike Schroepfer. As a technology guru and the previous Vice President of Engineering for Facebook, Mike focused more on the technical side of operations for FB’s 10-year roadmap. There were three key topics which emerged from this session; artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity, and virtual reality (VR).
Artificial Intelligence – How are we improving this technology and utilizing it to its fullest potential?
How do we teach our machines to see?
Live Pose Detection was created to help computers model movement in a more lifelike way. Now, FB has created DensePose which uses a full polygonal mesh to capture complex movements that were missed with the original technology. This is yet another step in teaching computers to see and perceive at superhuman capability.
How do we teach our machines to speak?
Mike introduced Muse, a system that takes overlapping words from multiple languages and can translate from one to the other without directly having the translation from human coding of two particular languages.
- For example, it is like taking the words from a bank of languages which includes English, Japanese, Swedish, French, and Chinese where only English is translated to French and French is translated to all of the other languages. Using Muse, we would be able to overlay the languages and ultimately turn English into Swedish.
- Mike touched on how we have 6000 spoken languages around the world yet currently FB only operates their translation features with 48 of those. This technology can allow us to communicate with much more accuracy and ease internationally.
How do we teach our machines to think?
FB has previously modeled their technology after Deepmind’s Alphazero technology which created a bot that taught itself how to play games based on logic and reasoning. The bot ultimately won the game against a human and showed that intelligence truly can be achieved through unassisted technology. Facebook will continue to develop technology that uses this methodology to make smarter, more self-sufficient electronic programs.
Connectivity- How can we make our technology accessible to all parts of the world?
Rather than laying cables from point to point in cities, we can use software that detects the line of vision from specific points in order to disseminate wireless high-speed internet at a much quicker rate. Facebook is currently testing this system in San Jose and will begin projects in Kuala Lumpur and Hungary soon to disseminate easily accessible internet. FB is also working with hundreds of companies in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Project to disperse the technology as quickly as possible.
Virtual Reality- What improvements can we make to increase the capabilities of VR?
Facebook’s goal is to make it possible for users to feel as though they are standing with another individual who is actually thousands of miles away. Here are the 8 features of virtual reality that Mike laid out which need to be improved upon to make this feasible.
- Optics and Displays- An increased field of view and depth of focus requires new technology that Oculus is developing.
- Interaction- FB has to capture the animation of human interaction and expression in order to reconstruct this clearly halfway across the world.
- System Design
- Artificial Intelligence
- Computer Vision- FB is currently developing software to capture and rerender the world in 3D through lenses.
- Avatars- FB is progressively building a system to personalize avatars to interact with others in the sphere of virtual reality.
Coming off the tail end of the Cambridge Analytica personal information breach, Facebook made a point at the conference overall to emphasize how they will continue to improve on privacy settings and options for deleting data. A common theme seemed to emerge from the kickoff of the first day. We can’t just create all of this technology and not ensure that our users are utilizing it for good. Does it seem like they’re attempting to take responsibility for their imprint on the world’s methods of interaction, commerce, and social movements? Smart one Facebook. With all of these new features and technology matched with an attitude for transparent methods and communication, there is no doubt that Facebook will continue to pave the way for a better and more interconnected world.