Facebook details plans for connectivity, AI, and social VR

Day two of Facebook's F8 conference reinforced the three big tech efforts comprising the company's 10-year plan.

Image: Erin Carson/TechRepublic

On day two of F8, the Facebook developer conference, the company further detailed inroads it's been making in the areas of connectivity, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

There were no announcements, but rather more information on these key areas that CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg identified as being crucial to Facebook's 10-year plan.


Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering at Facebook, discussed how the company plans to bring connectivity to urban areas, suburbs, and remote parts of the world.

"We're looking for gains in tech that are going to make 10X faster, 10X cheaper, or both," he said.

For rural parts of the world, like countries in southern Africa, Parikh talked a bit more about Aquila, Facebook's v-shaped, solar-powered, unmanned plane that could fly uninterrupted for months to bring internet to those areas.

There's also an antenna system targeted toward areas with low population densities for wide-coverage connectivity called Aries--96 antennas can deliver from 71 bps/Hz to 100 bps/Hz. It's a research project, at the moment.

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Finally, there's Terregraph, a low-cost multi-gigabit wireless system for urban environments.

For many of the areas Facebook has in mind, fast internet is not at option. Many places only have 2G speeds, which Parikh described as a thousand times slower than what the US, for example, is used to.

Artificial intelligence

From there, the keynote moved on to artificial intelligence.

"We are giving you communications superpowers through AI," said Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, director of applied machine learning at Facebook.

As it stands, AI helps populate users' newsfeeds with the posts that are the most relevant to them, but Facebook wants to further this by creating the ability for AI to understand those posts and in turn, make it easier for users to digest the content. This could present itself as Facebook translating posts that might even include slang, or help the vision-impaired not only know that a picture is of a family outside in the snow, but know where in the picture is the snow, trees, and people.

Social virtual reality

Thirdly, there's virtual reality, which Oculus chief scientist Yaser Sheikh called the ultimate social platform. Specifically, she talked about social VR experiences and the problems that must be solved before people can one day seamlessly use VR to work remotely, visit with family, attend meetings, and more.

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