In a lot of ways, I feel like marketers are still catching up to what the Internet has done to marketing. But a couple weeks ago, at the F8 developers conference, Facebook announced plans to totally upend what the Internet is, blur the lines between our offline and online lives, and basically take us all one step closer to The Singularity … And I don’t think marketers are going to be ready for that.
The Facebook Plan
The plan put forth at F8 is not exactly sinister, but many do see it as a bit creepy. Over the next 10 years, Facebook is dedicating itself to solving certain problems:
- Connectivity for Everyone: Facebook is working on two systems that would improve wireless Internet access in cities and provide it in rural areas.
- Applied Artificial Intelligence: This would allow real-time processing of things like translation, image search, real-time video tagging, and other capabilities that aren’t remotely possible without advanced machine learning.
- Social Virtual Reality: This is the one causing the most visceral reactions. Using the Oculus Rift headset, Facebook plans to make social media much more of a virtual social-visit-like experience. The tip of the iceberg of that is Facebook Spaces, which would let you and a friend chat via cartoon avatar in the real world via VR. Facebook promises this is only “0.1 percent” of their plans for virtual reality, but it’s an indication of how they plan to use it to pierce the veil between the online and real worlds.
- React Native: Facebook’s open source, cross-device development platform is built to allow designers to create apps for anywhere with a base on Facebook.
Isn’t This Great for Marketers?
On the surface, there is a lot of potential to Facebook’s vision of the future. Everyone gets access to your website, there’s AI to help you monetize them, virtual reality spaces to let your sales people (or bots) talk directly to customers as if they were meeting in person, and all your favorite technologies can build for the platform.
The gap from where we are now to there is really wide, though. There are aspects of the online world that are currently truly interactive in real-time, but for the most part the Web today works at the speed of typing. In most cases, your audience is reading something that you had the chance to think through, proof, check for lible, etc.
Everything Facebook is describing here will work in truly real time, more like an actual conversation. All the AI is made for real-time processing, and the VR spaces are literally real-time conversations.
So what will a world like that look like? Surely there will still be crafted, designed marketing, but will you have to have a sales person available via VR to take every order? Or are you counting on virtual assistants to be able to carry on a real-time conversation with a live human being? Chatbots have come a long way, but this functionality still seems further off.
I feel like in some ways the Facebook future for marketers is actually less automated, and would require more free personnel to do the interacting.
So my question is, how many of you are thinking about integrating AI, or preparing for virtual reality at all at this point?
I have a feeling the answer is close to zero. But technology is about to force all of us to think that through very soon.