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Here's everything we expect from Facebook's huge conference

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference kicks off on Tuesday, April 18 in San Jose, California. And as usual, the show is expected to feature a host of big announcements about what the company has been working on for the past year at its Menlo Park headquarters.

Yahoo Finance’s JP Mangalindan will be on the ground bringing you the biggest news about Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus. Yahoo Finance will also livestream Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote on Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST, as well as the second keynote on Wednesday at the same time.

So what kinds new of products, services and devices can you expect from Mark Zuckerberg and company? We’ve got some ideas.

Bots, bots and more bots

In the lead-up to F8, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products, David Marcus, told USA Today the company is “doubling down and tripling down on bots.”

Bots are automated chat programs that let you interact with different services through Facebook’s Messenger app. A Domino’s bot, for instance, will let you order Domino’s pizza through Messenger, while a 1-800 Flowers bot will let you view and purchase flow arrangements.

Source: Facebook Messenger

Messenger has more than 30,000 bots, so doubling down shows how dedicated Facebook is to ensuring bots are a success. In their earliest iterations, Messenger’s bots were clunky and a bit unwieldy. And while they still aren’t as convenient as individual apps, they are certainly improving in terms of usability.

AI for the masses

In addition to Facebook’s recent bot announcements, the company also let fly with news that its M artificial intelligence assistant is coming to its messaging app.

This first publicly available iteration of M is capable of intelligently analyzing your messages and offering suggestions for things like stickers, polls and ride-hailing apps when you mention them in your conversation.

Facebook isn’t just interested in making it easier to send stickers or call an Uber, though. The company has big plans for making M your go-to destination for kicking off your web searches and discovering new online products and services.

So it wouldn’t be much of a shock to hear M and its underlying technology migrating over to Facebook proper or even Instagram or Whatsapp.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see AI used in other Facebook tech,” explained Gartner, Inc. analyst Brian Blau. “I know that AI is a theme for Facebook. They say that it’s one of their long-term objectives, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come forward this year through different missions they have.”

Blau said AI could go a long way in making Facebook feel more human and influence a variety of the company’s offerings.

Facebook hardware

Facebook only has one piece of hardware right now, the Oculus Rift. But that doesn’t mean the company isn’t working on new tech gadgets. According to Business Insider, Facebook’s secretive Building 8 is working on everything from augmented reality and cameras to drones and possible medical devices.

The Oculus Rift is the only piece of hardware Facebook currently makes.

Blau, though, is skeptical of those moves, saying he could see Facebook launching a new kind of augmented reality headset, or upgrading the Rift’s display, but not much else.

Games galore

Facebook has been big on games lately, specifically through Messenger. The first few Messenger Games included new entries like “Endless Lake” and old favorites like “Pac-Man.” With several scheduled meetings set up at F8 regarding games at Facebook, it would make sense for the social media giant to reveal some additional gaming content at its developer conference.

Stay tuned for our full coverage of F8 live from San Jose beginning April 18.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.