I’ve just got a glimpse into Facebook’s vision for the future.
At a special installation in London, Facebook showcased their key future-facing projects to a lucky few this afternoon. These included demos of the Gear VR, using Oculus technology, and the latest version of the Oculus Rift. I’ve experienced the Oculus before, so it was interesting to see how it’s progressed: in depth lenses and multiple sensors across the head device mean a much more realistic experience. I also spoke to a Facebook representative about the Oculus Touch, which wasn’t on show but still interesting to hear about.
Internet.org was hands down my favourite bit, seeing as how I’m really interested in how the internet can impact populations across the world, even those without the near-limitless access to technology that we have in the UK. I didn’t know that Aquila, Facebook’s first solar-powered drone, is assembled in Yeovil in Somerset. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 but weighs less than a car, as I was told in a video showcasing the technology, and will fly above conventional air traffic for up to 3 months to provide connectivity to the most remote places on earth using lasers and radio frequency technology.
Facebook is also making moves in the Artificial Intelligence department, as are pretty much all of its competitors. The most impactful of the screens on display in this area was its work in describing photos to blind users, enabling them to experience Facebook in a very unusual way, and for many people their first ever use of something like Facebook.
In terms of infrastructure, I learnt a bit about Facebook’s big data servers: Lulea in Sweden, and Prineville in Oregon, USA. Also, if you’re a heavy Facebook user, rest assured in the knowledge that the power needed by Facebook for one year’s worth of Facebook use emits less carbon than 1 medium café latte, 8 minutes of burning a kerosene lamp and 1 pot of tea.
All in all, an interesting afternoon.
If you’re interested in the broader topic, Fast Company today published a long read about Zuckerberg, Facebook and their vision for the future – and for more photos from this afternoon, Ars Technica was there too.