Facebook held F8 Developer Conference on May 1 and May 2 in San Jose last week. I was quite excited to watch the two video recordings on F8 website and learn about the tech and design trends at Facebook this year.
Some thoughts about Facebook AR/VR
Facebook announced Oculus Go at F8 this year, and every attendee got a free Oculus Go. It looked like for the field of social VR at Facebook(Oculus TV, Oculus Rooms, and Oculus Venues), Facebook wants to get us used to consume and interact with web content in VR from all different aspects, no matter we’re watching TV shows, chatting with friends or participating live events.
Since last year, I’ve heard from soon-to-graduate designer friends that they want to start their design career in AR/VR fields as soon as they step out of design schools. I understand, yet my response is — realistically, it’s not going to happen. It’s not only about the fact that the job market puts high requirements on AR/VR designers(5+ years of industry experience), but also it’s about the design vision needed for AR/VR based on in-depth knowledge of HCI, business, and technology. It’s something that new graduates need time to grow and obtain over the years. Designing for AR/VR is not about creating something unknown or unseen, but it’s about constructing a new perspective of perceiving our current world through the lens of virtuality.
Like Mark Zuckerberg claimed at the beginning of this year’s F8, the technology that Facebook strives for is to make connections, build relationships, and bring people closer together. And that principle applies to Facebook social AR/VR as well.
Okay, enough said. So what are other takeaways I learned from watching F8 keynote videos?
1. Chatbots for Business
By September 2017, Facebook has 1.3 billion MAU(monthly active users), which is a remarkable growth in comparison to 0.2 million MAU in early 2014.
This number doesn’t give us enough context until we zoom out and review it alongside with other well-known messaging and social media apps that have a chat feature.
One momentum I noticed from Facebook Messenger is that it will continue to empower business users through the development of chatbots. The other two Facebook apps, WhatsApp and Instagram, are aligned to the same product roadmap as well. Mubarik Imam, the director of WhatsApp, introduced how WhatsApp Business helped local business owners connect with their customers. Instagram also provides a similar service — Instagram for Business, which allows business owners to curate and upload content shown as stories or ad feeds to reach out to prospective customers.
David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook, introduced the next steps for extending the use of Facebook Messenger for Business. He brought up that Messenger will continue to serve as a customer chat plugin, where business chatbots will remain on both web and mobile, taking care of FAQs, order confirmations and shipping updates for business owners. It made me wonder how Messenger chatbots will differentiate their services comparing to other online messaging and customer service companies in the bay area like Intercom, Shopify, and Zendesk. Would Messenger stand out in the next six months?
Given that there are ten thousand chatbots developed on Facebook Messenger today, the AI behind chatbots would continue boosting its growth in machine learning. Though Facebook shut off the development of M early this year, the text-based virtual assistant bot on Messenger, I’m looking to see it comes back with advanced abilities to handle complicated tasks and give precise suggestions.
2. Video for social interactions
Because of my journey of designing video conferencing software for business users, I become an advocate of using video chat to connect with friends and colleagues. Video chat is immensely used in our daily life, and almost every messaging app comes with the video chat feature.
Is it just a coincidence that Facebook prioritized video-related features this year across Facebook App, Messenger, and Instagram? Early this year, Facebook introduced Watch Party, which allows groups to watch and comment on live or pre-recorded videos together. It’s a similar feature to what other video streaming platforms provide like Twitch, YouTube Live, and Bilibili. Live discussion while watching something together is as valuable as the video content.
On Facebook Messenger, the next steps are to continue improving the speed and quality of image and video sharing, allowing high-resolution photos and HD videos uploaded in seconds. Meanwhile, Instagram is focusing on using video for everything — stories, feeds, customized ads, explore, and group video chat. After witnessing the success of Stories, a feature that allows users to upload photos and videos set to vanish in 24 hours, Instagram wants to make the app super sticky for content browsing, even when we’re video chatting. During video chatting, we can minimize the chat window and continue browsing feeds, and share content with the group instantly.
Video creates a sense of constant presence no matter when we’re thousands of miles away or multi-tasking on other things. Our video presence will continue to be our identity in the virtual world, representing the fidelity of the reality. In Facebook VR, the figure of a user renders in a variety of fidelities, from a cartoon character to an upper-body live video stream. Before we get entirely comfortable with the immersive VR world, bringing ourselves on video first is an onboarding step — as easy as uploading a profile picture on Facebook.
3. From consuming to creating
With the attempts of bringing all different new product features, Zuckerberg wants to transfer Facebook users from consuming content passively to creating, curating and sharing content actively. It’s quite a step forward from how we use social media today when we are locked to refresh, scroll and swipe to catch up on what’s happening at every second.
Closing thoughts — What’s next?
There is a lot of other things I haven’t dived into from Facebook F8 this year.
How do we manage and share our data on social media wisely?
How do we position ourselves in a social community monetized for the marketplace?
Would we date differently from how we used to with people we met from OkCupid or Tinder?
The answers are open-ended. Social media is mesmerizing when technology shines on new surprises for us every year. The moment when we close those apps and get back to our daily errands, what’s left in our heart? How are social interactions converted to real, substantial relationships? It’s not only a question left for Zuckerberg, but each of us to find out.
The perspective of this article as well as the cerdit goes to Shan Shen — Product designer at Wish, formerly at BlueJeans Network. I love crafting software products and writing about them.
Magazine : UX Collective — Curated stories on user experience, usability, and product design.