Bots, Live and AI: What to expect at Facebook’s F8 conference
Our bot-filled future is rapidly approaching.
Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, is set to kick off Tuesday with an opening keynote from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
While Facebook has been tight-lipped on what the developers in attendance will hear, we do know bots will take center stage. We’re also expecting to hear more about Oculus VR, A.I. and video — and how Facebook’s army of developer partners can benefit from them.
Of course, there are likely to be a few surprises, and Mashable will be covering the conference live from the venue in San Francisco. But for now, here’s a look at everything we’re expecting to hear about at F8.
Bots are coming for Messenger
Messenger will once again a big focus at F8. One year after introducing Messenger Platform, which allowed third-party developers to bring their apps to Messenger, Facebook is once again looking to bring more developers to Messenger.
This time, however, the social network is betting on bots. In what’s pretty much an open secret at this point, Facebook plans to announce it’s bringing chat bots to Messenger. This will allow businesses and developers to make their services available inside of Messenger via a Chat SDK.
The new software tools will allow developers to create specialized bots for Messenger. These bots will enable Messenger users to interact with services that typically require a separate app (think: restaurant and travel reservations). While we don’t know the specifics of how these interactions will work (though we’ve seen hints with recent integrations with Uber and KLM), Facebook will likely pitch the move as a better, more frictionless way for companies to get their services in front of the 900 million people using Messenger.
Facebook’s integration with Uber in Messenger.
The company has been quietly working with a number of partners for some time and plans to make the Chat SDK widely available after its formal unveiling. The Chat SDK will also allow people to make transactions and communicate with businesses inside Messenger.
The plans also reportedly involve publishers, who will also be able to use bots to promote articles inside of Messenger, according to a recent report.
Video: It’s all about Live
It’s no secret Facebook is investing heavily into video, and its live-streaming product is becoming increasingly important to those efforts. Last week, Facebook introduced a boatload of new features for Live, including new interactive features and the ability to stream to specific groups.
While it’s unclear exactly how Facebook plans to pitch Live to developers — new developer tie-ins seem unlikely given the relative youth of the platform — we’d be surprised if Facebook didn’t use F8 to extol the virtues of Live.
A.I. and M
Facebook has also been steadily ramping up its investment in artificial intelligence and it’s likely the social network will highlight some of these efforts, like its tool that reads photos to the visually impaired and M, its experimental assistant for Messenger.
M is still in its early days — it still relies on human assistants almost as much as algorithms — so it’s unlikely Facebook will announce any significant expansion of M at F8. Still, we’ll probably hear more about the company’s vision for M and the A.I. that powers it. We may also hear about more early-stage experiments and research the company is doing.
What about Oculus?
While we expect Facebook to save any major gaming announcements for E3 later this year, the company will almost certainly use F8 as opportunity to sell developers on Oculus — more specifically: on 360-degree videos, which Facebook introduced last year.
Since then, the company has brought the videos to mobile and virtual reality and will likely use F8 to educate developers about how to create similar experiences for VR. (A look at the agenda seems to confirm this, with sessions on optimizing 360-degree videos for Oculus and deep dives into the tech that powers them.)
Whatever Zuckerberg has up his sleeve for F8 this year, the conference will serve as a great look at how Facebook believes we’ll interact with each other and our own digital lives in the near and short term. Whether it’s conversing with a business’s bot on Messenger or sharing an experience with friends in VR, there’s a lot to be said about the underlying vision. But it’s still unclear if it’s the correct one and — even if it is — whether Zuckerberg’s pitch is good enough to convince developers to join him on the journey. We’ll find out Tuesday morning.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.