Facebook bets on Messenger chatbots at F8 developer conference keynote

The first half of the F8 2016 Facebook developer’s conference was packed with new and exciting projects. Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the keynote with an inspirational note on “changing the world,” and from the looks of it, that’s exactly what he plans to do.

The other keynote speakers included vice-president of platform Deb Liu, director of global product [artnerships Ime Archibong, vice-president of Messaging David Marcus and chief product officer Chris Cox.

“I hope that we have the courage to see that the path forward is to bring people together, not push people apart,” said Zuckerberg before he delved into the events of the day.

The most exciting of these projects includes Facebook’s new Messenger Platform for retailers and other companies. Using Messenger, retailers can now build chatbots to interact with their customers through the app.

In its beta release, developers will be able to start building chatbots for Messenger today. These bots communicate with users via a combination of artificial intelligence and learning technology that help it better tailor conversations with specific users over time.

The beta version of the platform comes with three bots already installed. Poncho the Weather Cat, Spring, your personal shopping assistant and CNN.

In full throttle, users will be able to make purchases and even request an Uber directly through the app.

Facebook has also announced the expansion of its live streaming platform Facebook LIVE. Snapchat has prompted several apps, including Facebook and Instagram, to amplify their video services.

After seeing success, Facebook has decided to make LIVE a prominent tab in the Facebook app, allowing users to see live streams from their friends whenever they choose.

In addition, Facebook executives announced the release of “a whole family apps to create a world class experience for all the different people that you want to share with.”

These include Facebook’s new Profile Expression Kit, an app that allows users to create video in third-party apps and upload it as their profile video.

Also rolling out today is Account Kit. Since Facebook Login became the number one login product in the world, Facebook has developed another alternative to remembering your password.

Account Kit is an app that allows users to sign into websites using either their phone number or their email address. This will be available to both Facebook users and non-Facebook users.

Furthermore, Facebook has opened up the Save button to other websites, allowing users to save content from external sites on Facebook to view later.

Beyond video, apps and chatbots however, Facebook has a ten-year plan that involves dipping into spaces they’ve never entered before. These include virtual reality, 360 degree video, artificial intelligence and global connectivity.

Today, Facebook unveiled a design for their new 360 degree camera, the Facebook Surround 360 which is flat, round and uses a 17-camera array. The device will be designed to capture 360 degree images and render them automatically.

Perhaps the most intriguing announcement made during the keynote speech was Zuckerberg’s reminder that Facebook intends to connect the whole world. The social media giant is in the process of building a plane, named Aquila, designed to beam down internet coverage from the sky into developing areas.

“If you had told me Facebook was going to build a plane I would have told you you were crazy,” he laughed.

In all the fuss, Zuckerberg still managed to squeeze in a Donald Trump dig at the beginning of his keynote.

“I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward against this idea of a connected world. I hear fearful voices talking about building walls … It takes courage to choose hope over fear.”

Facebook is clearly planning a grand future. The good news is that it wants to bring the whole world along for the ride.

See the conference live. 

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