Hot off the presses announcements on how Facebook is changing your world online
The social media giant has announced new features for their Messenger chat service at the F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Taking the stage in his classic grey t-shirt, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg began laying out the new goodies on display for the developers in the field.
Among those treats was an Oprah-style giveaway of Gear VR headsets and Samsung phones.
Zuckerberg kicked off the presentation with the announcement of tools that will allow businesses and others to add the bots to their pages, letting them interact with visitors and perform services directly from the chat.
Beyond simply being able to respond instantly to customer inquiries that are sent through Messenger, it appears that the bots will be used as virtual assistants.
In a post from Facebook Messenger lead David Marcus, he spoke about Dutch airline KLM having signed on to use their service for handling important tasks and information like retrieving boarding passes.
The past year has seen Facebook’s chat platform grow in leaps and bounds. After finally moving to a separate app in 2014, the company now claims 900 million active Messenger users every month. To grow their numbers, they are offering use of the chat service without having to open a Facebook account, tying it instead to a phone number.
They have also added numerous features like games, hailing an Uber, or sending money to friends for their U.S. users.
Moving to greater automation through Messenger opens up significant potential for both consumers and businesses. If Facebook’s AI is strong enough to offer a superior service, learning human language to the point that the experience doesn’t feel clunky, then this could be a much more comfortable way to interact with businesses.
As a person with a serious food allergy, I always check ahead with a restaurant before visiting to make sure that I’ll be able to eat there without fear of ending up in the hospital. Naturally, I’ll always visit their Facebook page to check out the menu and get their contact information. If I see that I can chat with them via Messenger, then that’s a great option.
The one downside is that you have to hope that the busy establishment will have the time to check their messages and respond to you. If the bots can learn to recognize and respond to questions like, “Do you use peanuts at your restaurant?”, then they might be able to save me and the restaurant a lot of time and frustration.
From the business side, they can pick up on me as a potential customer that’s worth targeting with offers. I have no doubt that Facebook will find other data insights that merchants will find useful.
Some splash with live streaming
The next big item on the docket was the plan to build out the Live section to a greater extent with API tools for any content creator to send their live feed right to Facebook.
Zuckerberg says that people watch it much more than other kinds of video on the site, adding that those making the content enjoy it as well since it takes the work out of putting together that perfect video.
To help spread the live video capabilities, they are providing the APIs for all to use. Highlighting the potential use cases for the technology, Zuckerberg called in a drone to swoop in, filming the crowd and live streaming the images through Live.
If anyone doubts that this will be a powerful tool, then I’d point them to the content geniuses over at BuzzFeed who just live streamed two people bursting a watermelon by wrapping it in rubber bands. At its peak during the experiment, the live video garnered 800,000 simultaneous viewers.
Before Zuckerberg left the stage, he touched on some of their more long-term projects, including the expansion of their AI, virtual and augmented reality, and the effort to make access to the internet easier for users from across the globe.