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Recap Of F8 News and Announcements: Day 2

The second half of the Facebook Developers Conference kicked off with a keynote speech by CTO Mike Schroepfer. After a thrillingly exciting first day at the F8, where numerous updates and new features were announced for our beloved social media platforms, day two’s attention shifted towards the topics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and connectivity. Let’s go through some of yesterday’s major highlights and developments that were shared by our Developers, live from San Jose.

5 min read

Artificial Intelligence

AI is a phenomenon that has the potential to change the world we know, but one that is still a work in progress and far from being the final product. Improvements and innovations are constantly being tested and the next couple of years are expected to include some groundbreaking research and developments.

Facebook delayed their major announcement on their upcoming ‘smart speaker’, powered by Artificial Intelligence, amid the recent data privacy issues that have recently taken place.

Yesterday, however, the focus was set on the online community’s safety, and how Artificial Intelligence can help us secure a safer environment on social media platforms. Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer revealed that in the first quarter of 2018, two million pieces of terrorist propaganda from groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, were removed with the help of AI, 99% of which before they were even spotted by a human! "Compared to a few years ago, this is great progress." Shroepfer said. "But it's clear we still have a lot of work to do."

Yesterday, the AI research and engineering teams made an important announcement: The teams were successfully able to train an image recognition system on a data set of over 3.5 billion publicly available images. This innovative technique will enable researchers to scale their work at a faster pace, already scoring an impressive and record rate 85.4% accuracy in the widely used ImageNet benchmark. This can be used to improve Facebook’s ability to locate and identify content that violates their policies and terms of agreement. Additionally, they announced the next version of their open source Artificial Intelligence framwork: PyTorch 1.0, which will be key to building a wide range of future AI projects.

Aside from employing in-house teams to continue the development and research of AI, Facebook is also consulting with external academics and scientists in order to reach their targets and further develop the best possible version of Artifical Intelligence.

The objective is to continue heavily investing in Artificial Intelligence research, in order to make it work on a large scale with less supervision from humans. Due to the fact that this is a work in progress, and there are still many challenges that AI researchers face, humans cannot yet be fully excluded from the content review process. Up to 20,000 content reviewers are on standby in case a job is too complicated for AI, which requires human intelligence. For example, judging if someone is talking about their own experience with drugs or racial abuse, or whether they’re actively promoting them. These scenarios can still prove tricky for AI to deal with.

One of the toughest challenges Facebook is faced with, is training the AI to be completely impartial and unbiased. For example, AI must be able to distinguish between a comment that might hold an unpopular opinion and a comment that aims to spread hate and violence.

Artificial Intelligence is well on the way to changing the world we know, but it will take a bit more time before it is completely perfected and reliable.

Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

On the opening day of F8, Facebook announced the launch of their new Virtual Reality headset: Oculus Go. They even gave everyone in attendance a free set to take home!

Yesterday, however, Facebook prepared us for the next generation VR headset, one that is built from more advanced software with improved display functions. For the time being, Facebook is calling it the ‘Half Dome’. It could solve some of the key issues and frustrations that have arisen with current VR headsets, such as tunnel-vision field and the struggle to read something that is held right in front of your virtual face.

Introduced by Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Head of Core Tech product management at Oculus, the Half Dome has a similar appearance to the Oculus Rift and is expected to be optimised, developed and improved significantly in the near future.

The goal of making AR and VR actually feeling like reality is edging closer and closer, as technologies and software continue to advance.

On Tuesday, the introduction of AR to the Instagram and Messenger platforms was confirmed, as these new phenomena set the stage for a future that can mimic reality in high detail, with the help of rigorous research combined with advanced technologies and software.

It was also revealed that Facebook’s research scientists have created a prototype system that is capable of generating 3D reconstructions of physical spaces, resulting in some impressive outcomes. Check out this video here for a visual explanation!

Finally, the development of highly realistic avatars is also something that Facebook has been working hard on, with the help of Augmented Reality. Using state-of-the-art technologies and conducting extensive research, they have managed to design computers in a way that allows them to generate photorealistic avatars, that can be made to resemble a person. Check it out here!

Connectivity

Facebook explained that “These advances in AI and AR/VR are relevant only if you have access to a strong internet connection - and there are currently 3.8 billion people around the world who don’t have internet access.” Facebook aims to decrease this number, by increasing connectivity around the globe.

The social media giant aims to achieve this by developing next-gen technologies that can reduce the cost of connectivity for people, whilst simultaneously improving and increasing capacities and performances for all.

It was added that in Uganda, Facebook partnered up with local operators to bring in new fiber to that region, which upon completion, should provide backhaul connectivity to its neighbouring countries as well.

Furthermore, it was also confirmed that Facebook, alongside employees of the City of San Jose, have started testing an advanced Wi-Fi network that is supported by Terragraph. Terragraph is a 60 GHz, multi-node wireless system that is focused on delivering high-speed Internet connectivity to dense urban areas. Trials for Terragraph have also been scheduled for Malaysia and Hungary.

Facebook also confirmed it is working with hundreds of partners in the Telecom Infra Project, aiming to build and launch a diverse variety of innovative, pragmatic network infrastructure solutions. Check out the work Facebook has been doing in Northwest Uganda here, which is promising to ameliorate connectivity services for over 3 million people.

Well that was an incredibly interesting couple of days in California, and there’s enough updates, announcements and innovations to keep us talking for months! As we eagerly await the return of our two guys from San Jose , we can’t wait to start working with all these new different features.

And we're so excited about trying out the new Oculus Go headsets they were gifted!

If you missed our recap of day one at the F8, please check it out here!

 

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