In the news this week – major announcements from F8 Facebook Developer Conference and Instagram automation crackdown…
Mind-reading brain-computer typing interface
Perhaps the biggest reveal of Facebook’s F8 conference was the announcement that the company’s immensely secretive Building 8 R&D lab were working on a direct brain-to-computer interface which would allow users to type by thinking. Intentions to create this kind of technology has been hinted to in the past when the research division posted job ads for Brain-Computer Interface Engineers and similar.
Facebook’s vision is to be able to optically scan a human brain 100 times per second and convert that to into text at 100 words per minute – that is five times faster than conventional phone typing. It’s safe to say that this technology is in its (very) early stages but it could one day spell major developments to VR and AR.
Augmented reality developer platform
Facebook announced the launch of an augmented reality camera effects developer platform, allowing outside developers to contribute AR filters to the network. Facebook is clear that allowing developers access to the platform will benefit them by offering a much more diverse array of experiences.
Alongside the options for developers to soon be creating on the AR tool, right now anybody is able to make use of Facebook’s Frame Studio to create image filters that will appear on Facebook Camera to friends or page fans.
AI-powered additions to Facebook insights
Facebook have updated analytics in a way that make it easier for users to monitor important metrics and better appreciate the value of certain insights at a glance. They are integrating machine learning into the platform, opening up new opportunities for granular analysis and monitoring.
At the centre of the updates to Analytics announced at F8 was AI powered automated insights. Engineering manager Amit Finkelstein said this:
“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. Getting to these insights quickly and in an automated way helps you easily identify where to dig deeper and determine a plan of action.”
Launch of VR hangout platform Spaces
Facebook Spaces, a social VR hangout space, has been launched in beta for Oculus Rift + Touch. It is significant as it is the leading social network’s first significant integration of social virtual reality. into its core product. In the app, up to four friends are able to join a space, draw, chat, watch 360 videos and take VR selfies in a quirky and fun environment.
Messenger bots for groups, Messenger QR codes and bot discovery tab
Facebook has launched three new, significant ways to allow user to find and engage with bots on Messenger. Chat extensions allow users access to Messenger bots in group chats – such as sports ticker bots and collaborative Spotify playlists – whereas the discover tab addresses the discovery issue faced by developers for quite a while. Now users are able to discover “recently used bots [and] popular experiences”.
Facebook have also added new parametric QR codes for Messenger bots. In their newsroom post, they said this:
“Our new parametric QR codes will enable people whenever they are out and about at events, like at basketball games and concerts, to be able to find out more from a bot for Messenger, just by simply scanning the code in the Messenger camera.”
Instagram offline mode for Android
Users of Instagram’s Android app have been given an offline mode. At F8 the social network announced it wanted to offer support for using most of its features without internet access and much of this is now available on Android; the preferred device type in the developing world. Instagram say that more is coming in future months and the prospect of an iOS offline version is also in the pipeline.
Could this be partly in response to Snapchat’s CEOs ill-advised comments on their user-ship as a way of Instagram cementing their support for users in developing world? Almost certainly.
Instagram taking the fight to spammy automation software
After months of spammy auto-comments, Instagram are cracking down on fake account activity created by bot software, beginning with the closing of third-party automation service Instagress. Instagress, which allows automatically likes and comments on other photos, was forced to shut down on Thursday. Needless to say, for genuine users the prospect of a mass-exodus of bot activity on Instagram is just terrific.