1) AR Studio
Augmented reality - that’s when digital images are placed over the real world - is the key battleground between Facebook and its bitter rival Snapchat. And AR Studio could be the differentiator.
Facebook is opening up its AR platform so developers can make use of Facebook’s immense computing power - for things like image recognition - without having to invest in the costly and complex tech themselves. AR studio is the tool they will be able to use to make the most of it.
One example showed a tie up with Manchester United in which live scores, statistics and ticker-tape was slickly added over smartphone footage of fans celebrating in a bar. Little practical use, maybe, but it sets up Facebook to be the home of the best augmented reality apps, accelerating at a pace Snapchat really can’t match, if you ask me.
2) Messenger doing more
Here’s the thing: I really don’t like Facebook Messenger. It’s an app I’d never want to use were it not attached to Facebook, which makes it kind-of unavoidable if I want to reach my friends. That said, I know many friends who have resisted adding it to their phones.
Disturbingly, David Marcus, the head of Messenger, wants to bloat this app even further by adding in a host of new integrations, many designed to help you interact even more with businesses.
But I understand why. The model here is WeChat, the gigantic Chinese app that lets users do a bunch of things from within the same app. Facebook wants you use Messenger to chat to some friends about a night out and, without leaving Messenger, buy some gig tickets, make dinner reservations and book a ride-share.
3) Hanging out with friends in VR
Facebook’s decision to buy Oculus VR was motivated by the possibility that the technology would become a social platform, and not just about gaming.
Facebook Spaces is the first true embodiment of that. It places you, virtually, as a cartoony avatar, in a world inhabited by your other friends - also avatars. Here you can lark about, play games, share photos, take a “selfie”, even do a video call with someone in the “real” world.
It’s a bit of silly fun. And I can already hear many of you reading this and saying “How sad! Be friends in the real world!”. But hey, not everyone’s friends are in visiting distance. And this is like a good Skype chat, and then some.
This one will sound boring, so I’ve left it until last.
Facebook announced that there would be a free version of Workplace, available by the end of this year.
Workplace is Facebook’s answer to collaboration tool Slack and is, in direct contrast to Facebook itself, designed to help with productivity.
Right now, the full version of Workplace is free. But later this year that will change, with a paid-for premium version, offering better admin tools and things like cloud file storage and sharing, and a free version with just the basic