Facebook doesn’t want to be at Google’s mercy with its apps like Oculus or increased reality glasses because they depend on its Android operating system. That’s why Facebook has hired a Microsoft Windows NT co-authorcalled Mark Lucovsky to develop the social network from scratch as an operating system, according to Alex Heath’s The News. To be sure, the smartphone apps from Facebook will stay on Android.
“We really want to make sure we have room for the next generation,” says Andrew’ Boz’ Bosworth’s hardware vice-president of Facebook. “We don’t feel that we can trust the industry or rivals to make sure this is the case. And so we will do it on our own.
In switching to their own OS, Facebook could have more space to bake deeper into their apps for social interaction — and potentially privacy. It could also avoid a Google-Facebook dispute from derailing the devices ‘ roadmaps. Facebook tells TechCrunch that what is required for AR glasses is the subject of this research. It is currently exploring all the possibilities from possibly collaborating with other businesses or developing a personalized OS specifically for augmented reality.
An added bonus to switch to an operating system owned by Facebook? It could make it harder to force Facebook to sell some of its acquisitions, particularly if Facebook goes with the branding of Instagram for its potential augmented reality glasses.
Facebook has always been reluctant not to own an operating system and to have to rely on the help of some of its biggest rivals. These include Apple, who is CEO Tim Cook, who has regularly thrown jabs about privacy and data collection on Facebook and its president Mark Zuckerberg. In a previous protection against the dominance of mobile operating systems, Facebook has been working on a secret project codenamed Oxygen around 2013 to help it distribute Android apps from outside the Google Play store if appropriate, claimed Vox’s Kurt Wagner.
That being said, his last effort in 2013 to take more mobile control away from the OS giants collapsed in flames. Designed with HTC hardware, the Facebook phone ran a forked version of Android and the user interface of Facebook Home. Yet drowning the experience in the pictures of friends and Messenger chat bubbles proved to be wildly unpopular and shelved both the HTC First and Facebook Home.
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Now Facebook wants to learn from past mistakes as it ramps up its technology activities with a new AR / VR team office in Burlingame, 15 miles north of the headquarters of the company. The 70,000-square-foot space is designed to accommodate about 4,000 people. Facebook informs TechCrunch that the team will relocate in the second half of 2020 to take advantage of their labs, project rooms, and test areas. At other locations throughout California, Seattle, New York, and overseas, the AR / VR team will still have members.
TechCrunch asked for more space detail, and Facebook announced it was planning to open a public-faced, experiential space — perhaps the first permanent Facebook branded location that anyone could visit. There, with its augmented reality and virtual reality goods, people will be able to play. The range from the Oculus Quest headsets and Facebook Portal smart displays it currently sells to the forthcoming camera glasses it is designing with Ray Ban-maker Luxottica and finally its full-fledged AR eyewear.
Facebook says it’s planning to build actual retail space in the Burlingame office to let people try and then purchase their hardware products. This would be a big first step towards self-branded Facebook retail spaces in the vein of the shops of Apple and Microsoft.
Interested in potentially owning more of the hardware stack, Facebook held merger talks with Cirrus Logic, a $4.5 billion market cap semiconductor company that makes Apple’s audio chips and more, The Information notes. The deal has never happened, and it is unknown how far the negotiations have gone, considering the tech giants keep their M&A departments continuously open to discussions. But it shows how serious Facebook takes hardware, even though sales of Portal and Oculus have so far been slow. Facebook declined to comment on this issue.
Nonetheless, that could begin to change next year as flagship applications in virtual reality hit the market. I received a press preview of the forthcoming first-person shooter Medal Of Honor that will be released in 2020 on the Oculus Rift. An hour of playing the game of World War 2 flew by, and it was one of the first VR games that felt like you could do it week after week instead of just being a tech demo. Medal Of Honor may prove to be the killer app that persuades gamers to get a Quest.
Facebook also focused on the company’s hardware experiences. Facebook Workplace video calls can now run on Portal, with auto-zooming of its smart camera to hold everyone in the board room in frame or concentrate on action. Facebook’s knowledge reports also prototype a VR videoconferencing device tested by Boz with his team. Facebook informs TechCrunch that Boz held two internal events where, using Facebook’s interactive Q&A tools, he videoconferenced about 100 of his team leaders using VR. It is hoping to learn what it would take to hold meetings in VR regularly.
While, the hardware projects feed back into the main ad business of Facebook. Now, to reach them with ads, it uses some data about what people do on their Oculus or Portal. There are plenty of lucrative data for Facebook to theoretically mine, from playing those games to viewing kid-focused activities to digitally teleporting to holiday destinations.
Facebook informs TechCrunch that Portal is currently taking data as if you are logging in, making calls, or using other apps to warn targeted ads. Of example, if you do that a lot, you might want to see advertising related to video calling. When you connect to your Facebook account with Oculus, then data about applications that you are using or events that you are attending could be used to change their algorithms or target ads.
Once we act on it, Facebook wants to know what’s in our hearts. The information reveals that the brain-computer interface technology used by Facebook to monitor interfaces has been reduced by using sensors to identify a phrase a user thinks. It’s gone from the size of a refrigerator to something portable and far from being able to be incorporated into a computer. Facebook tells TechCrunch that progress is being made, dramatically improving the word error rate to the state-of – the-art research and increasing the word vocabulary that can be recognized. Facebook can now decipher brain activity in real time and operates on an intermediate system to identify single words as it moves to 100 word-by-minute brain typing.
Selling Oculus headsets, portal displays, and mind-readers could never produce the billions of revenues that Facebook receives from its powerful advertising. But they could ensure that from the next waves of computing the social network is not shut out. Whether they are as immersive as virtual reality, functional complements to our phones as smart screens, or minimally invasive sensors, Facebook needs them to be social. If it can introduce your mates to your new gadgets, Facebook can find a way to maximize money while stopping them from making us more lonely and less human.