The first features are Soundbites, currently being live-tested with a handful of creators. Soundbites let users apply audio filters to transform speech-to-text, use different voice effects, add sound effects or music from Facebook’s Sound Collection, mix audio tracks, and even use AI to clean audio quality. Within the next few months, users will be able to listen to podcasts directly on the Facebook app and discover new podcasts and episodes based on their interests. There is also promise of Live Audio Rooms, which will let everybody share excerpts as Soundbites and give creators the option to turn a live conversation into a podcast episode. What’s more, just like on ClubHouse, fans will be able to support creators and public figures through Stars (like a Facebook sticker a fan can buy and the creator gets 1 cent for), or donate to causes they care about.
Yes! Over time, Facebook says all these different audio formats will live in a central listening destination and there will be more ways to monetize—by charging for access to a Live Audio Rooms, or subscriptions. In true Facebook philosophy, the tech giant’s new offer is going after everybody, ClubHouse, Twitter, TikTok, even Spotify (with whom they’ve also partnered to offer Facebook users in-app music streaming...). The new features are crucial for Facebook. Apple is forcing it (and all apps) to ask app users if it’s ok to be tracked and users are likely to answer “no,” which will cripple Facebook’s ad offer. Providing solutions and incentives for keeping users within its ecosystem has thus become key to Facebook’s ability for offering advertisers a good audience, a.k.a, making a profit.
A new hair salon in London showcases augmented reality (AR) that lets customers experiment with hair colors and point their phones at different products to get more information on it or shop it. Across the Atlantic, the company is working on a big grocery store where shoppers enter by swiping a smartphone at the entry gate and are tracked by cameras, software algorithms and shelf sensors—then charged for what they take when exiting through the designated gates. Yes, Amazon already has stores with similar tech, but it now appears to have solved a significant technical challenge that can handle scores of shoppers at once and cover large supermarkets.
Amazon continues to innovate both experience and tech. It’s cashierless software is two years’ ahead of its competitors, which gives it a significant advantage and the option to sell the solution (monopoly?). In both instances—hair salon and supermarket—Amazon has not detailed what sort of data it will collect from customers or where this data will be stored. We should all be curious, if not concerned, about this.