Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in his opening keynote address at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference on Tuesday that his company has passed 1.74 billion monthly active users just on mobile, and is taking advantage of that by bringing those users more of what they want such as augmented reality.
In a call to action for mobile developers, Facebook is opening its AR features to third parties to speed innovation in customizing the filters and masks it’s been rolling out via its Facebook Camera, Effects, Stories and Direct tools in a comeback to Snapchat’s popular filters.
“I think people look at this stuff and think: OK, that’s kind of fun, kind of primitive, this is just what kids like doing today,” Zuckerberg explained to the Wall Street Journal. “But we look at that and we see the beginning of a platform.”
Major brand partners so far include Nike, Electronic Arts and Warner Bros.
“We’re going to make the camera the first mainstream augmented reality platform,” Zuckerberg told attendees. “It’s going to take a while for this to develop. Over time, I think this is going to be a really important technology that changes how we use our phones and eventually all of technology.”
Zuckerberg addressed its race with Snapchat to replace common screens with glasses and contact lenses. Snapchat chose F8’s opening day to announce World Lenses — a 3D filter and AR feature that adds special effects not just to faces, but to scenes in photos and videos captured on mobile.
On the virtual reality front, day one of F8 also saw the beta launch of Facebook Spaces as a VR hangout for Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch users. The tool lets users create a digital avatar based on their Facebook profile photo and interact in a virtual world, meeting-up with other real-world friends. The app, available via the Oculus Store lets users: draw with a virtual marker; view Facebook content including 360-degree photos and videos; use Messenger calling to invite friends; and of course, take advantage of the app’s selfie stick.
“It’s easy to create an identity that represents the real you in Facebook Spaces,” said Facebook head of social VR Rachel Franklin. “This helps people recognize you and makes VR feel more like hanging out in-person. You can change your eye color, hairstyle, facial features and more until your look fits your identity. It’s all about being yourself.”
Marketers will be pleased to note improvements to Facebook Analytics—formerly known as Facebook Analytics for Apps—a powerful, free product for accessing rich audience demographics, and measuring customer behavior across channels. Facebook “announced new capabilities designed to help you understand and optimize your complete customer journey across the channels you use to interact with customers, such as your app and website. Our new Automated Insights tool uses advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence to bring valuable insights directly to you. With this new feature, you’ll see insights such as changes in purchases for a new version of your app, or variations in engagement across people in different cities.”
Other F8 sessions of interest to brands (with links to session videos):
• The future of monetizing with Audience Network
• Boost your business with Messenger
• Explore the power of the Places Graph
• Imaginative ways to do research.
The company also unveiled Chat Extensions, a new type of Messenger bot that lets users access developers’ bots in pre-existing conversations. AI-powered “Smart Replies” are designed for SMB’s to create an auto-response to common inquiries like business hours, directions, contacts or restaurant menu choices.
As noted in its press announcement,
The experiences being built in Messenger are inherently social. Now with Chat Extensions, we enable multiple people to chat with the same business at the same time. If you are excited to share the newest song you love, you can now add a bot directly in a group thread and share the conversation and experience with your friends. We think that this will enable people to virally share bots. You can currently find favorite brands like Spotify, TheScore, OpenTable, Food Network, NBA, Wall Street Journal and Kayak — with many more on the way.
Facebook also announced new brand partnerships including a Subway Facebook Messenger order bot for more than 26,500 Subway restaurants in the U.S., along with bots for FreshDirect and The Cheesecake Factory, all powered by Mastercard’s Masterpass.
— Mastercard News (@MastercardNews) April 18, 2017
Zuckerberg stressed open collaboration on developing these new mobile tools as it’s “an important time to work on building a community.”
He also briefly addressed the need for community standards in the wake of last weekend’s murder video posted on Facebook Live for two hours before it was pulled down “We have a lot more to do here. We’re reminded of it this week with the tragedy in Cleveland. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Goodwin Sr. We will keep doing what we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”