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Facebook's (FB) F8 Developer Conference: Day 2 Highlights

The second day of Facebook Inc.’s FB F8 software developer conference in San Francisco was a languid affair but the focus remained on AI and AR /VR technology and global connectivity.

The social media giant is setting up a new research lab, Building 8, to aid its efforts in technological innovation and has brought on board Regina Dugan, one of Alphabet’s top executives, to head the R&D lab. Dugan had earlier served as DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) chief.

What’s More in the Offing?

Facebook has consistently been working on offering faster connectivity across the globe. Yesterday, the company unveiled ARIES (Antenna Radio Integration for Efficiency in Spectrum) and Terragraph, two of its ambitious Internet connectivity projects.

With ARIES, Facebook wants to bring fast wireless connectivity to rural areas by using antennas to provide faster Internet coverage on 2G spectrum. As per Facebook, as about 90% of people live within a 40KM radius of a major city, ARIES can easily expand the reach of city networks to remote areas, dispensing the need of building any new infrastructure. No time frame has been given as to the employment of the ARIES service.

Terragraph will boost connectivity in congested urban areas. As per a Quartz report, Facebook will be employing WiGig antennas atop lampposts and other “street-level furniture” to beam signal over the unlicensed 60GHz spectrum. The company tested Terragraph at its headquarters while it has picked San Jose, CA as its first city to deploy Terragraph later this year.

To boost connectivity, Facebook has been testing Express Wi-Fi, and developing laser technology to move loads of data at super fast speed along with Aquila, a solar powered aircraft to beam Internet from the sky. It has collaborated with France-based Eutelsat Communications to launch a satellite that would beam Internet in sub-Saharan African regions. 

Next, Facebook announced enhanced support for its React Native Framework for developing more apps. Per an Investopedia report, though enhanced support may look inconsequential prima facie, it becomes important as it builds upon available development frameworks to bridge the gap between the two operating systems i.e. Apple's iOS and Alphabet’s Android. Currently, developers have to work on both platforms to build a mobile app.

Continuing its push in AI technology, Facebook announced a number of features that are going to take the social media experience to a whole new level. Among these, the most notable include automated translation system, photo search and Image segmentation. The translation feature helps users to read posts in different languages by translating those. Photo Search will enable users to search for particular photos based on image content rather than tags. About Image segmentation, the concept is self intriguing. Facebook is aiming to breakdown images at pixel level to identify each and every object in the images and read it aloud to the blind people.

Bottom Line

With curtains down on F8, Facebook has now more than ever clearly highlighted its ambitions of becoming more than just a social network. We continue to be impressed with Facebook’s efforts to develop cutting edge AI & AR/VR technology. There are just too many things going on in its favor right now like Instagram, Oculus, Messenger and WhatsApp and the company’s strength in mobile, which will continue to outpace growth in desktops in the foreseeable future.

As of now, all of these appear to be terrific growth engines but it will be one Herculean task for the company to actually make it work.

At present, Facebook carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other stocks worth consideration include Etsy Inc ETSY, 21Vianet Group, Inc. VNET and Alphabet Inc. GOOGL. While Etsy sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 21Vianet and Alphabet carry the same rank as Facebook.

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