At Facebook’s F8 developer conference held yesterday, the company introduced 4 major updates. The biggest updates were revealed for Messenger: Facebook has created a marketplace for bots. The social media giant is also betting big on virtual reality using its Oculus Rift platform and on enterprise networking with Facebook Workplace platform. Below is a lowdown
Almost a year after opening Messenger bots to developers, Facebook is now adding more functionalities to its chat app. The company says that Messenger can now be used as a Telephone directory for finding new users and as a digital Yellow Pages book for finding new businesses and services. Here is how Facebook plans to do it:
Discover tab: On the home screen of the Messenger app, a new discover tab will allow users to browse through bots, pages, companies, products, nearby places and events, News, etc. The ‘bot store’ feature is being rolled out in the US as of now. Any developer can add their own customized messenger bots to the platform.
Messenger codes: The Messenger app now allow businesses and individuals to generate ‘parametric QR codes’. Whenever a Facebook users scans these QR codes, it will redirect them to a web page, an event page, etc. Messenger QR codes can also be customized for events like sporting games, concerts, etc.
Chat extensions: With this feature, users can invoke messenger bots within chat conversations—something which Google’s Allo has been doing using its Google Assitant feature. For example, within a chat conversation or a group, a Messenger user can share music tracks using the Spotify bot. The other users clicking on the music track will be redirected to the Spotify music bot within Messenger itself.
Suggestions from M assistant and gaming: Facebook’s M assistant which was first released in November 2015 now gets directly integrated into Messenger app. Users can set reminders, make payments to other users, suggest tasks/businesses, order food, etc. The feature is currently available for US users only. There is also a new game tab for US users within messenger with support for multiplayer games.
Updates on Workplace
Facebook’s enterprise networking platform Workplace which was launched in October last year also gets some crucial updates. Workplace users can now share files, bots, compliance tools, etc. To start with, the platform will have file-sharing integration with Microsoft Office, Salesforce, etc. for quicker sharing. Files shared will have a thumbnail pic with description and a comments section—something which seems to be borrowed from Slack. Workplace will also have support for messenger bots. For example, the @repairbot can be used by a company’s employees to alert the maintenance team or a bot to remind employees about the daily work schedule. (Source: TechCrunch)
The company claims to have already onboarded more than 1000 organisations worldwide who collectively have created 100,000 groups on the service as of October 2016. Top 5 countries using Workplace includes India, Norway, US, UK and France.
AR Studio for developers
Facebook is now opening its augmented reality platform to developers. Developers can now employ image recognition technology to create camera effects, designs, code-driven animations, etc. The AR Studio is an augmented reality based development environment with features like face-tracking, 3D rendering, scripted effects among others. “With it, you can design effects that respond to motion, gestures, facial expressions and more,” the company said. These effects were introduced last month on Messenger and on the Facebook app, and resembles Snapchat’s well-known photo-filters.
The social media giant is betting big on Virtual Reality (VR) with its Facebook Spaces platform—a new VR app that allows users to hang-out with friends in a virtual environment. All users have their own customizable 3D avatar, and in order to use the Spaces, a user will require an Oculus Rift headset. A User can create a new chat room and invite more users. Once these users join the virtual space, they can perform actions like drawing in the air with a virtual marker, changing the VR background with 360-dgree photos, make video/phone calls via Messenger, etc. Note that the platform is currently in beta mode, while Facebook promises more updates in the future.