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Facebook F8 conference: What we learned during the opening keynote speeches

Published 13/04/2016

Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg discusses Messenger and other platforms at the leading social network's annual developers conference in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg discusses Messenger and other platforms at the leading social network's annual developers conference in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Facebook's F8 developer conference had only been going for a few hours, and already there was some huge announcements.

Gone are the days when F8 was just for announcing newsfeed redesigns - in the opening keynote speeches, we heard about a brand new Messenger chatbot platform, a solar-powered WiFi plane, and all kinds of live video innovations.

Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at the social network's annual developers gathering unveils the option of building chat bots that let software have one-on-one natural language exchanges with people in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at the social network's annual developers gathering unveils the option of building chat bots that let software have one-on-one natural language exchanges with people in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Here's some of the main things we learned at the F8 opening event.

Facebook has launched the Bot Platform

The platform has just been released in beta form, and allows you to order goods, book tickets and complain to companies by talking to an artificially intelligent robot, rather than calling a helpline or visiting a full website.

Tech people are very excited about it, and some have speculated it could have a similar impact on the mobile web world as Apple's App Store.

It's building a solar-powered plane and launching satellites

This has been announced before, but it came out of left field during the conference - as part of their ongoing plan to bring internet to developing countries and remote areas, Facebook is building a giant, unmanned, solar-powered plane, which will beam internet down to people who need it the most. There are plans to have a "fleet" of them in the skies one day.

We've written about the Bot Platform in more detail elsewhere, but essentially it could completely change how you use the internet.

Zuckerberg also said the company's first satellite will be launched this month, and will bring internet services to sub-Saharan Africa.

It's going big on live video

Facebook's has taken its first steps with live video already, but it has much grander ambitions - soon, filmmakers will be able to stream live video to Facebook from any device, not just a smartphone.

That includes traditional film cameras and even flying drones, which Facebook demonstrated during the event.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg uses a small drone and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset during a keynote presentation at the social network's annual developers gathering in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg uses a small drone and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset during a keynote presentation at the social network's annual developers gathering in San Francisco on April 12, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Also coming soon are new controls for live video, which will allow a controller to switch cameras and zoom in on certain areas, not unlike a TV director does today - this will come in handy for media companies already taking advantage of the new tool.

It's also designed a 360-degree camera

One of the final big announcements was the Facebook Surround 360 - a flying saucer-shaped camera that can capture footage in 360 degrees. Facebook says its design is better than other cameras already on the market, and claims its software makes processing the video a much quicker and easier task.

Facebook is making all the designs for the camera completely open-source - meaning anyone will be able to build one or use the software. The company hopes the filmmakers who end up using the camera (which will cost at least £21,000 to build) will start posting their content to people's Facebook feeds, so users can take advantage of the forthcoming 360-degree video support for the app.

Mark Zuckerberg doesn't like Donald Trump very much

Zuckerberg straight away took a thinly-veiled swipe at the Republican presidential candidate while talking about Facebook's plan to 'connect the world'.

Speaking to the assembled crowd of developers, Zuckerberg said: "As I look around the world, I'm starting to see people and nations turning inwards, against the idea of a connected world and global community."

"I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as 'others'. I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases even for cutting access to the internet. It takes courage to choose hope over fear."

"Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges."

No doubt Trump is preparing his rebuttal right now.

Independent

Independent News Service

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