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Facebook's F8 Developer Conference Day 1: Major Highlights

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Facebook Inc.'s FB  annual F8 software developer conference began in San Jose, CA yesterday. In his keynote address, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed on the importance of camera and said that Facebook will be turning it into the “first mainstream augmented reality platform.” Apart from talking about augment reality (AR), several other announcements, related to virtual reality (VR) and Messenger, were made.

Facebook also announced a new program called Developer Circles, aimed at forging a strong developer community to enable better dissemination of knowledge about technologies as well as better collaboration. Next, there is the Places Graph to help users get data (names, photos, Facebook consumer ratings etc) on 140 million places across the world—like parks, public places and restaurants—to create “location-aware experiences”. By creating such experiences, it will “help people learn more about where they are so they can make informed decisions about where to go and what to do”, adds Facebook.

However, over the last few days, Facebook has been in the limelight because of the live streaming of a murder on its platform. A septuagenarian in Cleveland, Robert Godwin Sr, was shot dead by Steven Stephens, who posted the video of the crime on Facebook Live. A massive manhunt was carried out by the police. However, the alleged killer reportedly shot himself dead two days later outside a Mc Donald’s car park following a brief police chase. The news came in around the time of the CEO’s keynote. Zuckerberg condemned the killing and stated, "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr. We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening."

Major Highlights

Camera Effects Platform: Facebook launched Camera Effects Platform that will enable users to add masks, frames and interactive filters to their photos. For the time being, the platform has two features. Frames Studio will help to create designs that can be used as profile picture frames. Meanwhile, AR studio will help in creating masks, animated frames and scripted effects and other AR technologies “that react to movement, the environment or interactions during Live videos.”

Facebook has been eyeing the AR/VR market for long. Zuckerberg said AR and VR go “hand in hand.” The company is working on a technology called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) that can convert a 2D image into 3D.

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AR/VR is the next big technological innovation along with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. According to a recent IDC report, global revenues of the AR/VR market are expected to grow at a CAGR of 198% from 2015-2020 to $143.3 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, global revenues of the Cognitive & AI market are expected to grow at a CAGR of 54.4% to over $46 billion by 2020. As a result, all tech behemoths including the likes of Microsoft MSFT, Alphabet Inc GOOGL and Amazon.com Inc AMZN are trying to grab a share of this lucrative market.

Facebook Spaces: Facebook launched its first VR app that will enable users to connect with family and friends in an interactive virtual environment. Initially, the beta version of the app will be available on Oculus Rift and Touch. Facebook said that with its help, users can create their VR avatar and customize it to make it look like them. The app will not only help to create a virtual world, but also keep users connected to reality by enabling Messenger calling. In a blog post, Facebook’s head of social VR, Rachel Franklin said “we’ll add new features as we learn from your feedback and continue exploring what makes social VR experiences most meaningful.” She also added that Facebook will be bringing these features to other platforms as well. “In the future, it will continue to transform the way people around the world stay connected with their communities and those closest to them. We can’t wait to get there”, she further added.

Messenger: At the last F8, Messenger was Facebook’s key topic of discussion. It has added over 300 million users since then, taking the count to 1.2 billion. The company remains pretty excited as it opened the app to developers to create chatbots that would enable businesses to extend customer service and other transactions. Chatbot is the new buzzword in the tech space. Messenger now has over 10K developers and bots in its ecosystem. At the latest F8, Facebook announced the addition of a flurry of new features to the platform. These include the Discover Tab that will help users to find businesses they “care about.”

Moreover, chat extensions will facilitate multiple users to chat with the same business at a particular time. Apart from that, Messenger’s AI powered voice assistant, M will now help users with suggestions to improve their communication experience on the app. For the time being, Suggestions from M will be available to users across the United States, with a global launch in the near term. M is capable of suggesting things “when it recognizes intent in a conversation” like suggesting stickers or paying/requesting money.  Moreover, it will help users to get a cab by giving Lyft and Uber options if the conversation is about going somewhere or suggest restaurants if the discussion is about food.

At the keynote, Zuckerberg had mentioned that the team in Arizona is working on conducting the second test of its solar powered drone Aquila. For now, we look forward to day 2 when Facebook is likely to touch upon its hardware and Internet connectivity efforts.

So stay tuned!!!

Zacks Rank & Stock Price Movement

At present, Facebook has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

In the past one year, the company’s shares generated a return of 25.53%, compared with the Zacks Internet Services industry’s gain of 6.24%.

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