Facebook recently held its annual F8 Developer Conference which highlights innovations to their suite of products, including Instagram, Whatsapp, Oculus VR, Messenger and more. The two-day meeting of developers, businesses, and entrepreneurs gives us a sneak peak into what’s to come for their products and the digital communications industry at large. Here are some of our key takeaways.
Messenger 2.0: More than just chat
Many of the new features unveiled at F8 fell under the launch of Messenger 2.0, the umbrella app that’s becoming much more than just chat. This update is aimed at positioning Messenger as an all-in-one, immersive communication platform that can accompany all aspects of connection from simple day-to-day communication to VR and social gaming.
Discover Tab: Making bots more accessible
Included in Messenger 2.0 will be the Discover Tab, a new section designed to help people easily and intuitively search for bots, nearby places to visit, and brands to connect with. Unlike Snapchat’s tab of the same name, Facebook’s Discover section will be free for bot-makers to utilize and be found.
Chat Extensions and M Suggests: Taking it to the next level with AI
Standard Facebook Messenger conversations are about to become immersive, engaging experiences by integrating even deeper with artificial intelligence. Many simple business functions can now be executed without ever leaving Messenger – tasks like signing up for a newsletter or making a checklist to booking a flight or ordering dinner for a group of friends. Facebook’s own M Suggests brings chat to life by non-intrusively predicting the moments where users have their highest intent to take action.
Smart Replies for Pages: Helping businesses better serve their customers
A more accessible way for businesses to leverage Facebook’s new capabilities is to enable Business Page Smart Replies. This allows businesses to use Facebook's AI bot engine to automatically respond to frequently asked questions, like brick-and-mortar store hours, directions, and other quick answers that a phone call with a representative isn’t necessary. These are said to be much “smarter” than the 1.0 bots and easier to adapt, promote, and make an impact.
Facebook Spaces: Diving into VR head first
If you and your friends have Oculus VR headsets, Facebook Spaces may just become your new favorite hangout. The new app lets you join interactive virtual worlds with your friends “as if you were in the same room.” 360-degree photos and videos can be shared which will be a great opportunity for branded creatives to dazzle audiences with production value. Similarly, they’ll be able to check out 2D content within virtual windows and draw 3D doodles - likely to be an earlier, more accessible way to utilize (and monetize) the Facebook Space.
Karsh Hagan’s Take
Awareness and interest are growing for VR and immersive experiences, but the launches at F8 2017 weren’t Facebook’s first attempt to get brands to adopt AI and bot tech. It’s been a slow-moving process beginning a little over a year ago when the idea of everyday brands leveraging the tech seemed much further out of reach. The goal with 2.0 seems to be to get the tools into the hands of developers, enabling businesses to hit the ground running and start making a big impact in simple ways. They’re creating a foundation for businesses to streamline key processes of their business and become more engaging rather than reinventing the wheel.
There may be PR value for brands in becoming early adopters to these technologies, especially making an early name within Spaces as they roll out ways for sponsored content to exist in these new virtual worlds. VR and immersive, automatic experiences are growing in popularity overall and awareness is building.
The practical uses for businesses are clear – streamlining triage, handling FAQ and even Bot Handover Protocol that allows you to pass customers off to external resources, like a site portal or call with a customer service agent, to handle the trickier tasks. Things like Smart Replies are inexpensive to build and test with zero barriers to entry.
Facebook is the biggest online publisher worldwide and the things they build inevitably gain traction. This is relatively uncharted territory for brands, but pioneering the space could prove to be extremely valuable in addressing ever-changing consumer pain points.
Want to learn more about how we're exploring bot and AI tech here at KH? Check out our new post Giving Our Website A New Voice: Our quest to build a Karsh Hagan Alexa voice bot up on the blog now!
Photo by Maurizio Pesce