Facebook's F8 conference is happening right now, which means plenty of new annoucements of products and features.
Two of the biggest are the introduction of chatbots and the arrival of a 360 degree camera.
Chatbots are coming to Facebook Messenger and they'll basically make it easier to interact with brands in certain situations. For example if you're checking for a hotel room or stock of a certain item you could log into their page on messenger and ask the question in a conversation.
The bot is programmed with some basic chatting skills and, depending on how its set up, can interact based on the information you give it. We asked a service called Hi Poncho what the weather was like in Ireland today and the exchange went like this. Poncho is a Weathercat. Obviously.
You can see there's a mix of direct responses and multiple choice questions, which is pretty typical of how these exchanges will go for the moment. They're simple and could prove useful for some people, but in the event of actually wanting a product or service it will still likely be better to go straight to the site.
Facebook is working with a number of brands to bring these bots to life, including CNN and Burger King, and the software is now being opened up to other developers around the world. We'll have to wait and see what the first Irish brand to use the service is.
This kind of messaging could also be used for ads and marketing in the future, but Facebook promises that it will be quick and easy to mute or block and contacts who are bothering you.
At F8, they also introduced the new Surround 360, which is a camera which can take footage in all directions at once. This is going to be increasingly important for virtual reality in the near and distant future, something Facebook is heavily invested in with Oculus Rift.
The camera has 17 lenses arrayed around a saucer like structure. It's said to make it so that the central pole is totally invisible and also stitches together the footage in real time, so you don't have to put it through any complicated processing. The video can then be instantly uploaded, and naturally it works within the Facebook feed.
The camera looks pretty cool too.
Expect more from Facebook as the F8 conference continues today.