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Facebook opens up, embraces new platforms


Facebook is opening up its platform to developers, and will focus on both artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality in its 10-year strategic plan.
Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer took the stage at the F8 conference this week to show the company’s work on universal connectivity as well the development of new platforms.
Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is working on a range of new technology solutions to help connect the unconnected and improve the experience of the underserved.
The company has announced two new terrestrial systems focused on improving the speed, efficiency, and quality of internet connectivity around the world: Terragraph, a wireless system for dense urban areas; and ARIES, a proof-of-concept research project to provide wide-coverage connectivity to areas with low population density.
On the AI front, the Applied Machine Learning team gave attendees a glimpse into the AI backbone that powers various Facebook experiences.
The team’s ongoing research efforts will enable better ways for people to connect, with new capabilities such as language translation, image understanding that allows photos to be searched for and classified by the image context rather than tags, and classifying videos in real time to help navigate the increasingly rich content people create every day.
Virtual reality, meanwhile, has the potential to be more social than any other platform.
Facebook’s recently established Social Virtual Reality team is exploring how people can connect and share using today’s virtual reality technology, as well as long-term possibilities as the technollgy evolves into an increasingly important computing platform.
Some of the challenges it’s working on involve combining a sense of presence with the ability to interact with the environment and communicating through body language as well as voice.
Facebook has also opened up its platform for developers. Over the past year, React Native has fundamentally changed the way developers build iOS and Android interfaces; and this year the company has announced new additions to the React Native ecosystem. These are React Native for Windows, React Native for Tizen (the operating system that runs on all Samsung SmartTVs), and a Facebook SDK for React Native, which will make it easier and faster for developers to incorporate social features like Login, Sharing, App Analytics, and Graph APIs across platforms.
Facebook is also developing internal tools to aid in mobile development, and has contributed several new projects to the open source community aimed at helping developers improve their own mobile app performance.