Bots Come To Facebook Messenger | Crunch Report


Bots come to Messenger, Facebook reveals its
own VR camera, a Russian billionaire invests in space travel and more … It’s Tuesday, April 12, and this is Crunch
Report. Bots are coming to Facebook Messenger. The
company kicked off its F8 conference for developers today, where it announced a new platform called
Bots on Messenger. This will allow businesses to interact with customer through automated
chatbots, which can deliver text, images, links and call-to-action buttons. The bots
can also allow you, the customer, to do things like make a reservation or review an e-commerce
order. To help you discover new bots, there will be a search bar on top of messenger.
Now most of the bots that we’re talking about here will probably be pretty simple, but Facebook
also announced a new framework today called Bot Engine, allowing developers to create
more complex bots, using machine learning technology. Facebook made several other announcements
at F8, like opening up live video platform to outside developers. Perhaps the coolest
news was a new way to get more 360-degree, VR content, onto Oculus and Facebook. How?
Through a camera called the Surround 360, a 17-lens, 3D, virtual reality camera. This
doesn’t mean Facebook is going to be selling cameras, though. Instead, it’s going to make
the hardware designs and video-stitching algorithms open source and put them up on Github, so
that anyone can build a camera of their own. It’s supposed to combine high-quality video
with durability and portability. And apparently you can buy all the parts necessary for the
low price of thirty thousand dollars. If you’ve been following the career of Russian
billionaire Yuri Milner, you know that he’s really interested in aliens. And who wouldn’t
be, but Milner goes a little further — last year he announced a one hundred million dollar
investment in the search for extraterrestrial life. Now he’s investing ANOTHER hundred million
dollars. This is for the second phase of the project — first came Breakthrough Listen,
which is listening to signals from outer space. Now there’s Breakthrough Starshot, which will
launch tiny space ships to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. These ships are supposed
to be smaller than the palm of your hand while functioning as space probes, complete with
lasers, communication systems and cameras. The launch is still years away, but the plan
is to send hundreds of these ships for the twenty-year journey. And I’ll get this out
of the way right now — if the third phase involves human space travel, I am totally
going to volunteer. HTC unveiled its new flagship smartphone today,
the HTC 10. I won’t make you sit through all the specs, but I will say that it uses the
64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor and has a 2K display. It charges using USB-C,
the new specification that’s supposed to replace existing USB connections. And HTC says the
battery can last for 48 hours of “everyday usage.” But is it a good phone? Well, the
reviews haven’t hit yet, so we’ll have to wait and see. Pre-orders start today for six
hundred and ninety nine dollars, with a shipping date scheduled for May. Uber released its first transparency report
today. The report revealed that Uber shared information about fourteen million users with
law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Uber claims it’s actually releasing the report
to start a debate about the kinds of data that regulators should have access to. In
a post on Medium, the company said, “In many cases they send blanket requests without explaining
why the information is needed, or how it will be used. And while this kind of trip data
doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior — and
is more than regulators need to do their jobs.” Uber plans to continue releasing similar transparency
reports every six months. That’s the report for today. I’m Anthony
Ha. Crunch Report airs every weekday at 7 pm Eastern,
4 pm Pacific, on Techcrunch.com. You can also find us on iTunes, and on YouTube. See you
tomorrow!

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