Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer outlined the social media giant’s main focus over the coming years in a keynote speech to a diverse group of college students at Atlanta’s TechSquare Labs.
Speaking to a room full of techie undergrads, Schroepfer talked careers in the tech industry and Facebook’s decision to focus on Connectivity, Virtual Reality [VR] and Artificial Intelligence [AI]. Even though this is a 10-year roadmap, the social network is steadily making progress in all areas now.
During last Thursday’s event, Schroepfer said the company’s primary focus was worldwide connectivity and what that looks like today. “Connectivity is solving a very simple but important problem,” Schroepfer said, “connecting the billions of people around the world who don’t have Internet access.” Although this has always been Facebook’s mission, the company is now in the perfect position to bring this vision to life.
He also provided insight into advancements we can expect in the over the next decade, if not sooner. “We’ve chosen to focus all of our energy into three main areas,” said Schroepfer, “Connectivity, [Artificial Intelligence], and [Virtual Reality].” Although ‘connectivity’ may seem like a simple buzzword, Schroepfer and his team have used the term to encompass a “series of radical technologies to try and dramatically reduce the cost” of basic Internet access.
Earlier this month, Facebook partnered with the space exploration company SpaceX and developed a satellite that would have provided numerous opportunities for widespread web access. However, both the spaceship and satellite exploded during the launch sequence. “This is what failure looks like,” Schroepfer said jokingly. But while there have been missteps in the quest for connectivity, there have also been successes. In July, Facebook built, and successfully tested, an Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) that could possibly provide web access to thousands of people in the area.
Facebook’s involvement in the ongoing progression of artificial intelligence (AI) is something Schroepfer was adamant about. There are countless new technologies that seek to create a problem-solving computer, but Facebook’s Oculus Research Team is making strides towards reaching this goal. “If you don’t how AI works, I can explain it to you in 30 seconds,” said Schroepfer.Facebook has developed a specific AI system that combs through a giant pile of images with attached text labels, runs it through the system, and builds a statistical dataset. This dataset can then be used by the AI system to recognize images and create captions. But while this may seem innovative, Schroepfer believes that this is only baby steps in the overall process. “They need to do more than just generate a caption, they need to tell us really useful things,” Schroepfer said. Facebook plans on one day implementing an AI system that can “read” images and assist users with sight impairment or blindness.
In the years since its inception, Facebook has established itself social networking giant with a net worth of more than $300 billion. Now in 2016, the social network is moving past ‘likes’ and ‘posts’ and developing large-scale technology solutions that will connect people all over the world.
Schroepfer is playing a pivotal role in advancing these projects which strive to make the world more open and connected. Before joining Facebook, Schroepfer was Vice President of Engineering the Mozilla Corporation, where he led product development process behind Mozilla’s popular Firefox software.