Credit: Jason McELweenie/Wikipedia

Mark Zuckerberg's big bets: VR, bots and a Facebook plane

The Facebook founder has a vision for an augmented future -and it doesn't include Donald Trump's wall.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 09 May 2016

The thing about changing the world once is that everyone expects you to do it again. Steve Jobs (personal computers and the smart phone) and Jeff Bezos (online retail and the cloud) both managed it. Understandably, all eyes are now on that other great tech giant founder-CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook boss has a vision for the future that goes beyond likes, posts and ‘friends’ you met once at a dinner and haven’t spoken to in the last six years. Speaking at the Facebook F8 developer conference in San Francisco, he revealed all.

There’s nothing like the real thing

Facebook bet big on VR in 2014, when it spent $2bn (£1.4bn) on Oculus, a company that promised a revolutionary VR headset. It’s only now been released, amid great anticipation (and frustration – a lot of people are waiting of late deliveries). Zuckerberg believes VR could change the way we interact and see the world – with the help of 360 degree sensors currently being designed, you could have a virtual meeting with anyone anywhere in the world.  

For those who don’t want to mess up their hair or risk walking into the desk while presenting to the New York office, there’s also augmented reality, where digital information is mapped onto your normal field of vision. Standing in front of a picture of some normal-looking glasses (take note, Google), Zuckerberg said that the ability to bring up images on your personal screen could eventually replace physical technologies like TVs with $1 apps. ‘It’s going to take a long time to make this work. But this is our vision, and this is what we’re trying to get to over the next 10 years.’

Chat bots

Not all chat bots are racist xenophobes. Some are actually quite charming, and they could become part of your marketing strategy. Aside from being a customer service department’s dream, Zuckerberg said bots could now be developed for Messenger, demonstrating a CNN bot that teases you with articles and a flower app which adds personalised messages to your azaleas. Those of us sick of automated phone calls (no I wasn’t mis-sold PPI insurance, for the last time) can rest easy – bots will not be permitted to message people who haven’t opted in to advertising.

Air Facebook

If you told me ten years ago I'd be building a plane, I would've said you're crazy,’ Zuckerberg said. And yet Facebook is building a solar powered aircraft that ‘weighs less than a car’ and can stay up for months at a time. The goal? Free internet for everyone. Just don’t tell the Indian government or net neutrality campaigners...

No Trump

Mark Zuckerberg did not mention the Donald by name, but the aim was clear nonetheless: ‘I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others... if the world starts to turn inwards, then our community will just have to work even harder to bring people together.’  Trump’s Mexican wall is apparently not part of Zuckerberg’s vision, though that’s one aspect of the future he has little say on. 

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