F8: Community & Privacy Tools, Putting the Hammer Down on VR & AR

Conclusion. This week we’re attending F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference. We have been down on the Facebook story given the negative effects it has on society (i.e. most people don’t feel better after being on Facebook) have recently outweighed the positive effects (groups and social change). It’s not just us who believes this, Facebook openly acknowledges both the positives and negatives of the platform. It’s important to note we believe there are three things humans fundamentally do better than machines: creativity, empathy, and community. Mark Zuckerberg’s comments today were largely about improving privacy and, more importantly, announcing tools to embrace one-to-one and community building. We see these moves as a measurable first step in evolving the platform to make the world a better place. We’re a long way away, but today’s updates are a start.
  • Three areas Facebook wants to build more meaningful communities around are live video and events (i.e. Watch Party), dating/relationships, and Groups. These all facilitate building community.
  • The company announced new measures in privacy and fake news centered around elections, fact-checking, and greater user control of privacy settings. These advancements are largely a result of the election-meddling and Cambridge Analytica scandals.
  • The company is staying committed to its role in advancing VR and AR. They announced the $199 Oculus Go headset will ship today. AR camera effects are being added to Instagram and Messenger, which is bad news for Snap.
Updates to community. Facebook showcased Watch Party, where friends can get together to watch a video and share comments and reactions. The goal is to connect people through video and make it possible to watch with friends and family even if they’re on the other side of the world. The company also announced a new dating feature housed entirely within the app. It will be an opt-in service, and nothing will be posted or shared anywhere else on Facebook. Finally, Facebook showcased a renewed emphasis on groups with a ‘Groups’ tab in the app, making it easier to join and connect with people who share your interests.
Updates to privacy. In compliance with the EU’s GDPR requirements, Facebook is rolling out privacy controls for users making it easier for them to control what data is and is not tracked by Facebook as well as which apps you’ve given access to and what information they’re using. They’re working on a “clear history” feature where users can clear the data Facebook has collected, much like how the feature works in internet browsers. Mark Zuckerberg was again taking the company’s issues head-on and addressed them in his opening remarks, discussing all the various measures they’re taking to ensure privacy and safety (beyond user controls and clearing history) while still building things that connect people.
VR and AR. Both Instagram and Messenger will be getting the augmented reality camera effects currently available on Facebook. Instagram will also get a platform for content creators to create their own AR effects. Separately, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Oculus Go, their new standalone headset, will begin shipping today (and that everyone at F8 would get one for free). A milestone in VR’s evolution is the introduction of an untethered headset (i.e. no phone or computer necessary) that still offers a quality experience, and Oculus Go purports to be the first device that can provide that. The company also demonstrated how they’re using computer vision to recreate locations from photos as 3-dimensional, immersive spaces that users can walk through in VR. We are excited to see the content and experiences that start to emerge surrounding the Oculus Go.
Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.