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Facebook began its annual F8 conference this week. Though it’s aimed at developers, Facebook generally kicks off with a series of announcements that’ll reach all of us in due course, much like Apple does at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Here’s three updates worth knowing.
1. New extensions
This year, Facebook announced some significant extensions to its Messenger app – the chat element of its social network.
Both Apple Music and Spotify were announced as partners in the update – and while Apple wasn’t on hand to explain how its feature would work, Spotify detailed its offering, saying it would let users provide playlist recommendations within the app. It would also allow them to search and share songs, albums and playlists. Even better, it will all be integrated within Messenger, meaning users wouldn’t have to switch to the Spotify app. Users will be able to listen to thirty-second clips, and Messenger will only open the Spotify app if they want to listen to the whole song.
Spotify’s extension has been implemented through an update yesterday and can now be accessed by users that have updated. Here’s how to use it:
First, open a chat window in Messenger, tap the + icon above the keyboard, and choose the Spotify extension.
When the Spotify window opens, it’ll show recent artists and songs, alongside a search bar to search for songs to share. Easy!
Apple Music isn’t available yet, but when it is it’s likely to provide similar functionality.
2. AR Studio
Facebook also announced that it would provide a set of tools for developers to make apps and extensions focused on augmented reality through Facebook’s own camera functionality.
This will see a number of developers produce extensions that users can use to overlay imagery and other information from their Facebook camera. It’s similar to what Snapchat and similar apps already do, but Facebook opening it up to others is a big deal.
Rumor has it Apple is working on AR capabilities in the next iPhone, but it’s unlikely it’ll open it up to developers, at least not from the start…
3. Facebook Spaces
It’s a new product from Facebook – but it’s only available to users of the Oculus Rift, the VR headset that Facebook acquired a few years back for $2 billion. It’s clear that Facebook sees the future as both AR and VR focused and this is an interesting step.
Essentially, headset users can hang out with up to four other users in the same space via virtual reality. The technology even tracks a user’s body language, a bit like motion capture, and the cartoon avatars it produces are apparently quite mind-bending in their realism of movement, if not in looks.
Of course, to use this users will need both a super-powered PC and the headset, which together will cost over $1,000. However, Zuckerberg has said Facebook is working on a way to make it work without a PC or wires. That will be the big game-changer if they ever achieve it.