I’ve just stumbled across this article. It’s some of the text from Facebook Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer’s keynote speech at the Facebook F8 Developer’s Conference:

Every generation of technology changes the way we connect with people.

A hundred fifty years ago, it took ten days to send a message from New York to California by Pony Express. With the invention of the telegraph, you could send the same message instantly. When the telephone arrived, text gave way to voice. And today, with just your mobile phone, you can video chat with someone on the other side of the world.

Over time, the trend is clear: connecting becomes faster, more efficient, more immersive. And with each invention, technology’s capacity to serve society has taken a giant leap forward. As the world has become more connected, people have gotten access to new information and opportunities.

It’s tempting to see progress as inevitable. But in every era of innovation, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs had to confront new bottlenecks — solving the technical problems that held us back from connecting in better ways. Today, we’re about to enter a new era in connection, but to get there we need to solve new challenges. At Facebook, we’re focused on three big bottlenecks to the future.

The first is planetary connectivity.

Right now, only a third of the world is connected to the internet. To connect everyone, we have to build infrastructure at planetary scale — and find new ways to bring people online.

Together with hundreds of companies, we’re working on the Open Compute Project to build data center, network, and hardware designs that are scalable, efficient, and sustainable. We’re also developing radical new infrastructure to connect people living in some of the most inaccessible areas on Earth. Today, we announced the first successful test flight of our UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) platform, which engineers at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab will deploy to connect people in remote communities.

Facebook’s UAV in flight. One day, these might provide Internet.

It’s our hope that this platform — and others developed by the Connectivity Lab team — will provide new, more cost-effective solutions for our operator partners around the world. As with the Open Compute Project, we want to work with the broader community to accelerate the pace of innovation.

True global connectivity is an incredibly hard engineering challenge, but one we have to solve to make the next generation of technology more inclusive than the last.

Our second focus is building intuitive interfaces and systems that are simple and scalable, with the aid of artificial intelligence.

AI can help people connect with the things that matter to them, but it requires a new kind of machine intelligence that can understand context.

With the help of our world-class research team, we’re building these systems. We recently developed an AI that could identify 487 different categories of sports. We tested it on some obscure video footage and it worked. Who knew that “underwater hockey” is a real thing?

We’ve also developed an exciting new technology called Memory Networks, which adds a kind of short-term memory to the convolutional neural networks that underpin our deep learning systems. This allows them to understand language more deeply than ever before, and answer relatively complex questions about a text that’s never been seen before. 

Finally, we’re working towards the next phase in human communication: shared experiencesvia virtual reality.

For the computing industry, VR has always been the dream, and now the technology to create convincing immersive experiences is just starting to appear.

Thanks to advances in processing power, graphics, and optical technology, you can put on a headset and experience the feeling of being in another place — you can achieve a real sense of presence.

Here at F8 you can put on an Oculus headset and be instantly transported live to “Hacker Square” at Facebook headquarters. The experience is so real it’s disorienting when you take off the headset and realize you’re not actually there.

At Facebook, the Oculus team is working to build the hardware and software to turn VR into something that millions of people will use every day.

With more connectivity, smarter AI, and immersive VR, people can stay closer to distant friends and family. The events and moments you share online — wishing happy birthday to a friend, celebrating an anniversary, or watching your kid ride a bike for the first time– can become even more awesome.

Getting there will require us to solve some of the hardest engineering challenges of our time, but we’re excited to be part of the next big step forward. And as we’ve done previously, as we build these technologies, we will work in the open and build communities around them so we can innovate faster together.

Not everything we’re working on will succeed. Not all the work is glamorous. But we think these are the most valuable things we can do to connect people — and I’ve never been more excited to see how the world will change and improve over the next decade.

I’ve been interested to hear updates from Oculus’s development team, after they were sucked into Facebook. A Kickstarter campaign straight to Facebook.. Not dissimilar from many other startups being bought up by the widening Giants, though, as many were aware at the time, this is a huge leap for Facebook. They have the users, and they quickly snapped up the first real commercial VR contender. Can Facebook shift their site to fit in with this experience? If so, will Facebook chat be a sort of digital break room to get away from reality?.. Or will we be sensually teleporting across the ocean to watch a concert with a friend in California? Maybe both? The fact is, this technology is being developed for all manner of applications. If all of these ideas and possibilities within the VR experience are interlinked to the same degree as the Internet, then we will be facing the fact that man has invented a sort of infinite space… The Internet comes across as infinite. You could scroll, click links and search through the Internet infinitely. As long as the content is still being created, it’s endless. If the expected escalation of virtual reality as a consumer item happens, it’s not hard to believe that, eventually, you could be running through endless space. Furthermore, can the countless uses for the Internet all be satisfied By virtual and augmented reality experiences. If so…. The screen, as we know it, may well become a thing of the past.

Schroepfer says he’s excited for the coming decade. To think that the iphone didn’t exist a decade ago..  If all goes well, virtual /augmented reality hardware could meet the same reception. Then again, this is one contenders perspective. There are many others who no doubt will produce even better headsets, but it’s Facebooks vast user base, and the reasons for their attachment that interest me. 

Let’s think about Facebook. I’ve had it since 2006. As we discussed with David White, I and many/most of my generation are residentially attached to this website. For some, Facebook is not a site to visit, it’s where to go to be social. I envy the brave ones who reject it, though I don’t know many people who’ve been successful. Or maybe because they’re not on facebook im simply not aware…. That would be a shattering truth if that was the case. It’s such a sad and shameful prospect to think that a private company has this sort of ability….. But they do, and they’re working to go ten steps further. 

There’s a definitive online culture. Your now more likely to be online than offline. Your online social life is the culmination of your social media profiles or presence. Each camped in their own advantage. Each with a distinct set of tools and uses. What separates one from the other, is the literal process of typing the URL, searching for the site, or opening the app. The device separates you from the online (or the digital….) yet these lines are blurring dramatically. Everday phone usage is unprecedented. Yet if your friends attention is completely diverted, you still have the option of grabbing the phone and throwing it into a river….. If you so wished.. Virtual / augmented reality could completely break this separation. This is a little farfetched as it relies on the hardware’s UX and fashion.

‘Wearable tech’ is evolving, and if someone ever does manage to make a fashionable, and maybe even unnoticeable Googleglass or oculus rift experience, and if it was made on the backbone of this VR infrastructure (or Internet) then yes the gap between the digital and the physical would be closed and we would be faced with a sort of hybrid reality, augmented by technology….. The dystopian nightmare! Then again, maybe there will be a counter culture rejecting it creeping into our lives.  Lots of ifs and maybes but it’s something to think about. 

The BBC launched a brilliant idea last week. ‘School Report.’ It was a week of live broadcasts, games, stories and all sorts, written and produced by UK school kids around the country. Each day for a week, different kids had timeslots on the BBC news channel. In one experiment,  A group of 10 or so students tested how long they could go without their phones. 3 survived a week, the rest couldn’t find anything better to do. The ones who did drop out explain how they felt as if they had lost touch with their lives….. It’s so engrained in their Everday life that they couldn’t bare missing it..  If this is the case for all smartphone users of the same age, which I suspect it is, or variations of, then to me it seems that its use is outgrowing the handheld device. If we continue down this path of re-inventing the telephone, we’re all going to have stiff necks, crash our cars or be hit by them. The question is what will be the turning point for the personal device? And how can it make us look up? The Everyday use of the internet is here to stay, now we have to play catch up in making devices that parallel our consumption and habits. 

Photographs by Babycakes Romero – 

It’s not hard to imagine that one day you could be sitting in the kitchen, having dinner with a friend over Virtual reality…. It’s sad, but given the increasing trend in online dining, this technology could completely immerse you in that experience. This is one of many examples of how current online trends could be reflected if virtual reality was to rise.

Facebook have entitled their VR research as ‘shared experiences.’ Already this screams of cross-continental, yet auto-physical interaction with other people….. It seems that this venture may just add to FB’s potency on the industry.. From small beginnings to where it is now, building possibly life-changing hardware, and in only little over a decade. This is a giant leap if the company succeed. From website to hardware.. I’m not sure there are many other examples of tech Giants having done that.

The other technologies he mentions are fascinating and in the future lots can and will be said about these ideas. Internet at the bottom of the ocean, year long lasting drones omitting wifi to the Himalayas, and the emergence of AI. I’m focussing on the prospect of VR, as it illustrates the possibility of a key component in my research.

Facebook (Oculus) Virtual reality will Perhaps make this illustration by Pawel Kuczynski’s laughable, old-hat and unimaginable. To me, this drawing doesn’t evaluate the problems with facebook, it simply describes the restrictions personal devices today have on our real-life experiences…. 

Or maybe that comment in itself defines the problem. 


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