Over the next 10 years, Facebook plans to push full force into artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Currently, Facebook is known as a social network for posting photos, commenting to friends about bar hoping, and reading the news of the day. But over the next decade, CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality will make the social network even more compelling.
In the future, users will be able to share 360-degree videos of their families and be presented with news stories they never knew they would be interested in but contain photos they may find fascinating, he explained.
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Zuckerberg, speaking at his company’s annual developers conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, said that Facebook’s goal in advancing artificial intelligence technology is to “build systems that are better than people in perception.” These systems will recognize and explain objects in an image or understand speech when spoken to.
He said that Facebook’s photo-sharing app, Moments, “uses the best facial recognition system in the world” to understand human faces in pictures. Of course, Google and Microsoft, which both brag of similar image-recognition technology, would likely disagree.
Facebook’s image recognition technology has gotten so good that the company built a tool for the blind that can understand images in a picture and read them the contents of the image out loud.
Facebook eventually plans to incorporate it’s image recognition technologies into its news feed so that it will be able to show users news stories containing images most likely to grab their attention. Zuckerberg didn’t elaborate in more detail about how exactly this would work.
It’s possible that users who are normally uninterested in news about the Syrian refugee crisis but who happen to be lovers of photojournalism would be targeted with news articles that contain the type of dramatic photos Facebook believes they would read. The goal is to “show more interesting content” that users won’t even know they want until they see it, Zuckerberg said.
About virtual reality, Zuckerberg said the technology “has the potential to be the most social platform.” “You just feel like you are right there with another person,” he said.
When his daughter takes her first steps, Zuckerberg said he wants to capture the whole scene in 360-degree video so that friends and family can strap on VR headsets and “feel like they are in the same room with us.” He also showed a video of two people that are in different places playing games like Pong together in a virtual reality environment.
“This is a kind of social experience you can’t have on any existing platform today,” Zuckerberg said.
Although Facebook has previously said that it’s still the early days of virtual reality, it has been investing heavily in the technology in anticipation of a boom in VR content and 360-degree video files. For example, to help spur more people to shoot 360-degree video, Facebook unveiled its own camera and said it plans to make its design free for anyone to build.
And while he is betting that the recently released Oculus Rift VR headset will generate big sales, Zuckerberg believes that in the future, similar devices will be much smaller and resemble traditional glasses. Furthermore, he argued that they will incorporate both virtual reality and its close cousin, augmented reality technology.
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Unlike virtual reality headsets, which surrounds a person in a full 3D interactive environment, an augmented reality headset, like Microsoft’s (MSFT) HoloLens, overlays 3D holographic images into a person’s field of view of the real world.
In the future, people will be able to show photos to friends wearing hybrid VR and AR glasses, and expand those pictures in front of their friends’ faces, Zuckerberg explained.
“It will take a long time for us to make this work,” Zuckerberg acknowledged.